'A neighborly thing to do'
Del and Manny Guajardo have endured a major flood, carbon monoxide poisoning, their son’s rare bone disease – and a near-miss with the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. They have been giving back by helping people in need at their Kasson business, Sophia’s Thrift Store, which opened in October, 2016.
Now they’re heading to Texas.
The couple planned to leave this week with two truckloads of basic supplies for victims of Hurricane Harvey. “I guess this a neighborly thing to do,” Manny said, “except the neighbors are 1,500 miles away.”
“I feel that there’s not anything we’re not able to do,” Del said “To us, it’s a mission to give back to the community, to give back for the help that we were given when we were down on our luck.”
The couple plans to visit the cities of Alice and Robstown, west of Corpus Christi - where hurricane damage is extensive and at least two people are reported to have died due to the storm.
Manny, who was born in San Antonio, said unemployment is high in the tiny ranch communities.
“But they’re proud people. I’m going to go see what I can do for them,” he said. “They don’t have lot of money, they don’t have a lot of shelters. These places are small. They don’t have a lot. We’re going to take a lot down.”
The Guarjardos heard about six members of a Houston family who died when their van was washed away by flood waters on Aug. 27.
One family member, Samuel Saldivar, was rescued.
“I’ll find him,” Manny said. “I know ‘Corpus’ pretty good.”
Jeremiah Watson, CEO of Watson Recycling, Oronoco, donated $500 for the Guajardo’s trip (the couple’s son and daughter, Michael and Marissa, will operate Sophia’s in the meantime).
Manny hopes to help 20 families with school supplies. He said he will pay the costs himself if necessary. He plans to drive one truck, and a friend will drive the other. They will take clothes, furniture, diapers, baby clothes and baby food.
The first stop will probably be in Austin, Minn., where a 40-year-old woman died in a house fire Aug. 25, leaving behind six children, ages 10 to 23.
“There are people there a lot worse off than we are,” Manny said. “We are not rich, by any means, but we always find a way to do it, right? Everybody has to have a mission in life. This is our mission. This is our dream.”
He said he had four feet of water in his house during a flood in his hometown, Salado, Texas.
He and Del had a carbon monoxide scare, and they took their son, Moses, to the Mayo Clinic after learning he had a rare bone disease.
Doctors said Moses wouldn’t live past age 13. He has had 23 surgeries. But he’s still battling at age 32.
The Guarjardos had a feeling they should not bring their children to a nursery in the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, which they visited during Moses’ hospital stay. They left the city the night of April 18, 1995. And the building was destroyed by a terrorists’ bomb the next day, killing 168 people. Del said she hasn’t heard from a niece in a Houston suburb, and an aunt is also missing in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
“We’ve been through a lot,” she said, “and we’ve had people helping us left and right. You return when you can. You find a way to help people in need. Especially in something like this. It just tears your heart out to see people suffer like that.” She plans to write bible verses and messages of hope on cards, hand them out to hurricane victims, and help as much as she can.
“Just to let them know, anything they need, just ask, somebody will come up and give them hope and faith that everything’s going to be all right,” Del said. “Material things don’t matter. What matters is your life. And for those who made it out, I want them to know that their life is worth more than anything they left behind. Material things you can always replace; your life, you can't.
"We've been through hard times," she said, "but there's always been somebody giving us a hand- the biggest hand of all is the Lord, because He looks out for us all."