By Holly Wise
The Cove Herald
I filled a lot of sand bags the summer I was 10.
The dump trucks dumped the sand behind an old building - a feed store as my cloudy memories recollect - and the Red Cross volunteers in that tightly knit Illinois community along the Mississippi River were waiting.
It was 1993, the year of the "Great Flood," when the Mississippi and Missouri rivers swelled and formed the most devastating and costly flood in United States history.
My family was traveling through Illinois and saw a sign soliciting volunteers to help fill sandbags in desperate attempts to hold the levees.
I wasn't privy to the conversation about if we should go, when we should go, why we would go, or the final decision to actually go, but we did.
I remember the sand, the sacks, rain and food.
And I remember the day the levees broke. It was the numbing day we stopped filling sandbags and redirected our efforts to making sandwiches for volunteers and displaced families.
Eighteen years later, in the face of catastrophes, I'm moved by my implicit desire to do something and the sacrificial offering of my local community.
It's been five days since Central Texas has been ravaged by wildfires. To date, the Bastrop fire has claimed two lives, consumed 32,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,300 homes.
In the time it takes to breathe a breath, people have lost family members, homes and possessions.
And forming a ring of support above the mushroom clouds of smoke from two counties over are the local communities of Bell, Coryell and Lampasas counties. As I'm writing this, my phone is ringing with calls from additional businesses letting me know that they, too, are joining the effort.
Individuals, organizations and businesses have networked and organized donation drop-off sites. Restaurants have taken food to feed volunteers and firefighters. Would-be garage sale items have been trucked over to Bastrop. Local ranchers have offered their pastures and barns, and they've been filled within hours.
It was never a question of if we should help. It was only a matter of when and how.
Here are some local drop-off locations:
UMHB Bell Baptist Association Building, 1125 College St., Belton; 9 a.m. to noon today.
Schoepf's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, 702 E. Central Ave., Belton; 7 p.m. to midnight Saturday.
Grace Christian Center, 1401 E. Elms Road, Killeen; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday; 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 15.
H-E-B customers can donate $1, $3 or $5 at checkout; the company is donating $50,000.
Fort Hood Harley Davidson, 875 W. Central Texas Expressway, Harker Heights, is accepting non-monetary donations from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
To donate directly to the Red Cross, go to www.centex.redcross.org.
For more information on drop-off locations, visit our Facebook page, facebook.com/kdhnews.
Holly Wise is city editor of the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7555. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcityeditor.