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Family needs help sending off bread, water, peanut butter

September 21, 2008
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer

I like Gustav. Gustav was my grandpa.

Gustav, this year, however, turned into a grumpy old man hurricane, dragging $15 billion damage across the Texas and Louisiana coasts in the first days of September and up to another $3 billion damage in Cuba before that.

While southern Texas seems far removed from Iowa, two local families know firsthand the trouble faced by those reclaiming a life after the storm.

Chastity and Gene Flanagan, of Humboldt, and Chastity's mother, Michelle Sweeney, of Fort Dodge, are trying to pull together water, peanut butter and bread for Gene's brother and family in Huffman, Texas, about 45 minutes from Galveston.

Marty Flanagan and his wife, Sheila, have three children - a 17-year-old at home and two others with families of their own. The couple has gone through a hurricane before - the hurricane that struck after Katrina - and tried leaving home with Gustav approaching.

"They couldn't get together fast enough to leave at the same time," Chastity Flanagan said, "and they weren't going to leave their kids down there."

Now the family lives together in Flanagan's home on the shore of Lake Houston, which is 3 feet over flood level itself. There is no electricity to the home, and nothing is expected to be fixed for maybe a month. With no electricity, there's no refrigeration; with no refrigeration, there's no perishable food except what can be eaten immediately. In the small town of Huffman, getting groceries - including drinking water - isn't an easy task.

Gene Flanagan left Humboldt early last week with supplies for his brother, including water, bread and nonperishables donated by the Dairy Queen in Humboldt, where Chastity works. He should be back Tuesday.

"If he can't go back to help, it's going to be me this time," Chastity said. "Mom has a trailer, and we've already discussed how to do that."

Sweeney said she's been baking bread and freezing it, trying to get enough bread to send south. And at a doctor's appointment Wednesday, someone gave her a loaf of bread for the cause.

"When I left that doctor's office, I was in tears," Michelle said. "To think somebody would actually do that. Cripes, they don't even know these people."

Mother and daughter are hoping others will get involved, too. If everybody does something, nobody has to do much. And anything helps a family in need.

Michelle Sweeney may be reached by calling 570-7205, and Chastity Flanagan may be reached at 778-4922. They're hoping to hear from folks willing to donate bottled water and nonperishable food items.

And maybe a little money to help buy gas on the long trip to Texas.

So long friends, until the next time when we're together.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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