Hillsboro family organizes aid for hurricane victims

Angie Zaragoza, right, holds a fan as she watches daughter Analia, 6, and Charlie Major, one of the volunteers, loading items into the Zaragoza’s bus which left for Austin, Texas, Tuesday night. After packing up the vehicle, about 10 children took time to enjoy painting polka dots and biblical references on the sides and top of the bus.
Angie Zaragoza, right, holds a fan as she watches daughter Analia, 6, and Charlie Major, one of the volunteers, loading items into the Zaragoza’s bus which left for Austin, Texas, Tuesday night. After packing up the vehicle, about 10 children took time to enjoy painting polka dots and biblical references on the sides and top of the bus.
One Hillsboro couple decided last Wednesday to ask residents and businesses in the area to assist them helping people who are desperate, and some emotionally devastated from losing everything in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

The idea to lend a helping hand to Texans in dire need happened when Angie and Paulo Zara­goza were shopping at WalMart.

“There were so many things on clearance,” Angie said on Monday, “and we buy and ship items to Mexico every year.”

Turning to her husband, Angie said: “Why don’t we just focus on Texas?”

It was a concept, she said, that her husband was just as enthusiastic about doing as she was.

“You are amazing,” he said to Angie.

Once Paulo was onboard with the donation drive, Angie said she called her pastor, John Werner, at Zion Lutheran Church in Hillsboro.

“What do you think of the idea?” Angie asked.

Werner said: “It is a wonderful idea. What do you want us to do?”

Angie said she didn’t really know what should happen next, but her goal was to fill the little yellow school bus before they left late Tuesday night.

“The reason is because of traffic,” she said, “and by the time we get there, we want to be super early.”

One thing Angie said she was adamant about is that none of their local donations will be put in an office.

“We are going to be handing out items directly to the people—giving them whatever they need,” she said.

A lot of people, she said, have asked her about clothes.

Donating clothes can be overwhelming, Angie added, but if they stop on the way to Austin, she said they will offer help to anyone asking for it.

“I made sure to let the pastor at the Bethany Lutheran Church in Austin know we are coming,” she said.

Austin is about two hours away from Houston, but the pastor there let Angie know the city is taking in about 1,000 people every day.

The pastor at the Austin church is a friend of the Hillsboro pastor, she said.

“We were told that they are getting some trucks in, and if we want to stay and hand out donated items in the parking lot, that would be OK,” she said.

In addition to the community answering the Zara­goza’s request for donations, some friends went the extra mile.

Angie said Cindy Haude, also of Hillsboro, gave everyone in her family a “Texas Bound, Fill the Bus Project” T-shirt for their effort.

It’s been a whirlwind of activity ever since last week when Angie said they made the decision to do this.

“We needed to do this in five days, and we are doing it!” she said.

Other people Angie said she wanted to thank for their help included Laura Paulis, Brenda Bartel and pastor who were all “amazing.”

As a way to show her gratitude, Angie also made cinnamon rolls and brought a gallon of milk for anybody coming with a donation.

“We wanted to do something to thank people for helping,” she said.

Most of the local businesses have made generous donations, too, she said.

Some gave money, she said, and instructed her to buy whatever is needed to help the survivors.

“We are hearing a lot of people say many are lacking water, children’s and adult’s socks and underwear, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, just a whole lot of things,” she said.

Hurricane Harvey has taken the lives of almost 50 people, displaced more than one million and left people in sections of southeastern Texas stranded, according to recent news.

Other help in preparing the Zaragozas for the “Texas Bound” trip have been their four children and other young people who decorated the bus, Angie said.

Her children include Fillow, 13, Romero, 11, Analia, 6, and Santino, 3.

Charlie Major and Paul Glanzer of Hillsboro also carried donations to the bus and helped decorate it when they were popping up on the top of the roof.