GILLETTE, Wyo. — Jayde West had no idea she would burst into tears last Thursday when she decided to walk over to the donation drive in the Walmart parking lot.

The connection starts with Stacy Imus, president of the Gillette Rotary Club.

Sara Martin, West’s sister, cuts Imus’ hair.

The two got to talking when Martin told Imus that the girls’ mother, Lori Cesar, lives in Rockport, Texas, a port town on the Arkansas Bay on the Gulf of Mexico.

Rockport was one of the first towns hit by Harvey.

When it started, Rockport was warned to brace for a tropical storm. Then it changed to a Category 1 hurricane. Two days later, West said, the whole town of about 8,000 was evacuating immediately.

Cesar was born and raised in Gillette, but moved to Rockport about 10 years ago. West said she kept up with her mother as much as she could during the storm.

West said that it took her mother, her husband and her mother-in-law four hours to travel 60 miles during the evacuation.

“I talked to her after she had left and she said she couldn’t remember if she packed any of our pictures or anything like that,” West said. “All she remembers is packing, but not what she packed.”

Cesar will have to live in an RV park for at least a month before they can move back into their home.

These are the people Keegan O’Brien, owner of FireTech and Rotary Club member wants to help. She decided about a week ago to host a donation drop-off and drive to Texas to deliver the donations to those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Houston and the surrounding areas. And because of the strange connection that the Rotary Club found, O’Brien and his nephew, Trevor, now officially have a destination.

The pair planned to leave Gillette on Tuesday and guess they’ll spend 30 hours in the truck driving to Rockport. It’s usually a 20-hour drive, O’Brien said, but with two trailers full of donations like cases of water bottles and cans of food, all that weight will surely slow them down.

Last Thursday, as car after car came formed a line in the Walmart parking lot, Martin and West talked to their mother on Facetime to show what her hometown was doing for her and the thousands of other people who were affected by Harvey.

That’s when they all cried.

“It’s been amazing,” O’Brien said. “It’s bigger already than we thought it would be. It just shows how much the community is willing to open up and help out.”

The staff at Bud’s Auto Repair had a similar idea to O’Brien’s, so they paired up and worked the trailer and tents at the donation location.

“It’s awesome,” Trevor said. “Makes me feel good about myself, helping out like this.”

O’Brien said he saw the same people come two to three times to donate. Some came by, asked what was needed and went into Walmart to buy it just for the donation.

Tucker and Brittany Johnson did just that and made a special trip to the store.

“We did it just (because) we felt like it was the right thing to do,” Tucker said.


Information from: The Gillette (Wyo.) News Record, http://www.gillettenewsrecord.com