Texas Conservation Corps Transitions

I’ve been a crew leader with TxCC for almost two years now and today is my last day. It’s also my first attempt at a blog post and I’m having a hard time trying to find a way to condense my whole TxCC experience down to just a few paragraphs. I’ve logged over 4,300 hours with this program, responded to four disasters in four different states, spiked in New Mexico and all over Texas, cut tread, built rock walls, cut down hundreds of hazard trees, killed countless invasive plants, managed volunteers, listened to homeowners stories….the list goes on and on. Some of the work I loved, and some not so much. At times my crews made me so proud I couldn’t stop bragging about them, and at other times I’ve wanted to strangle the whole lot. At the end of the day, they’ve been my weird little family and I’ll never lose that bond.

But here is the real take-away message and, to me, it’s the biggest surprise of them all.  From that jumbled assortment of people thrown together in a cargo van, being sent all over the country with little to no idea of what exactly to expect… this ‘jobs training’ program… it really works. Somewhere along the meandering path I’ve had with TxCC, I’m not sure when or where, I became someone you’d want to hire. A competent, capable leader, with a variety of technical, logistical, and communication skills… someone who can both hold her own at a meeting with an important community leader, or geek out about chainsaws with a park employee.

So now I’m off to a new job with the Forest Service. I feel ready and trained, but I also know that I’ll miss the hell out of this program. Thanks, TxCC.

Lisa Potter, Crew Leader, Emergency Response Team

Texas Conservation Corps Responds to Flooding in Eagle Pass, Tx

When I signed up for a position on a TxCC field crew, I never actually thought I would get sent out on a disaster response, so imagine the excitement when my crew was deployed in June to Eagle Pass, Tx. Our mission was to assist the community which had been badly affected by flooding along the Rio Grande.

Our work was centered around setting up a Joint Assistance Center (JAC) in order to provide a localized place for affected families in the community to come and receive help. We also managed the donations center, which  essentially meant wrangling people (volunteers and survivors) in a large gymnasium full of clothing and food.

Day one revealed the biggest challenge we would face over the course of our 8 days in Eagle Pass, the language barrier. As a small border town, over 90%of the locals spoke Spanish. Some of our crew had basic Spanish skills while other had none and it took some amazing volunteers diligently acting as our translators and borrowed phrase books for us to assist the people that needed it.

Once we had figured that out, we were able to set up a registration process that allowed families to move through the JAC and visit with the agencies the needed as well as pick up donations.

The hardest part of the deployment was never really being able to break away from the recovery mindset and decompress. All of the assistance efforts were based in the middle school: the JAC, Red Cross headquarters, the Donations Center, the Survivor Shelter, and our own volunteer shelter. We were given a classroom in an annex building to sleep in;  it also housed other recovery groups’ offices. We were in work mode really all the time, with the exception being when we entered our little classroom for the night.

It was challenging, but the people we met and befriended in that small, tight-knit community showed us just how much our work was appreciated and it was during those moments of thanks that I felt truly humbled.

Brandy Singleton, Crew Leader – Field Crew