All week Nacogdoches County officials kept a close watch on the weather. The open house for the Nacogdoches Civic and Evacuation Center was scheduled for today. If necessary, they were ready to cancel the planned celebration to house people in need. Fortunately that wasn't necessary.
Around 200 visitors to the new Nacogdoches Civic Center were greeted by live music and food. It was a celebration after all, but no one forgets the true reason why the over six million dollar facility was built in the first place.
"With Hurricane Isaac in New Orleans working havoc there are people seeking shelter now even in Texas and so this is going to be a great occasion for this community that's sheltered so many people," said DETCOG executive director Walter Diggles. "And now you have a facility that's not only going to hold people locally but also people coming in that need shelter."
This is the first civic/evacuation center of its kind in the state of Texas since Hurricane Ike when East Texas took care of those in need with what they had.
"And so this facility today that you're looking at is a direct result of things we've learned in the past," said Nacogdoches County Judge Joe English. "We have something of value that will help and serve many people."
General Land Office funding saw to it the region will be better equipped for the next big storm.
"This facility is a testament to what you're able to do and what you're going to do in the future," said General Land Office project manager, Heather LaGrone.
Round two of Ike funding is being dispersed now across East Texas.
The center was three years in the making. One year for obtaining funding and developing specific needs and another two years to build.
"This shows you what this facility can do," said Nacogdoches County Commissioner Jim Elder. "It can be emergency management," he said pointing to Red Cross cots set up for display. "It can have any kind of trade show event like that. We can have a party," Elder said gesturing to a motor coach, tractor and pickup trucks parked on the other side.
So while trade shows and parties will be held in the civic center, it can just as easily be turned back into an evacuation center.
"Everything from the space to the kitchens to the rest rooms, everything was built with evacuees in mind," said Red Cross volunteer coordinator, Bobbie Ann Anderson. "It's a wonderful design and a dream shelter for Red Cross to be a part of."
Serving during a time of disaster is definitely a team effort. Events are already scheduled inside the new Nacogdoches Civic Center.
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