Young Marines help out fire-devastated Texans

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 26, 2011



LAPLACE – A simple generous act concocted by members of the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office Young Marines program to aid families affected by wildfires in central Texas this past summer suddenly grew into a tremendous act of community kindness that excited and overwhelmed all involved.

Unit Commander Brian Bertrand explained that members of his platoons came to him in September with the idea of a clothing drive after watching wildfires engulf entire neighborhoods in Waco, Texas, and surrounding areas.

“One of my members said she saw the image of a mom with a suitcase of clothes and nothing else to her name,” Bertrand said. “They wanted to organize a drive to benefit these people.”

Bertrand said his group coordinated with an affiliate in Waco known as the Heart of Texas Young Marines, who agreed that clothing was the pressing need for most individuals affected. Bertrand said his troop put advertisements on the St. John Young Marines Facebook page and also worked with parish officials to put notices on the parish public access channel.

The drive was held Oct. 30 at the LaPlace VFW hall, and the following weekend Bertrand and a few others planned to drive to Waco to hook up with the Heart of Texas group, which consists of about 34 members.

“I was expecting a good showing but never could have imagined the outpouring of support we got that day,” Bertrand said. “We were bombarded with clothing of all sizes. It was amazing.”

Bertrand said he and the Young Marines spent just five hours collecting and amassed more than 90 large boxes of clothing, enough to completely fill a 25-foot enclosed storage trailer.

“We had everything from children’s clothes to women’s and men’s clothes, even some baby clothes and a large bag of stuffed animals,” Bertrand said. “I wasn’t expecting anywhere near that much. We filled that VFW hall with clothes.”

Bertrand said the haul was so large that it even surprised Waco Unit Commander Henry Gonzales, who was accepting the donations and coordinating his troop’s volunteer efforts.

“He didn’t think I was serious when I told him what was collected,” Bertrand said. “Their group had already helped families in Waco, so they had a long list of families in need. He told me that none of it would be going to waste.”

Bertrand said the efforts of the drive were a combination of the devotion of his Young Marines and the generous nature of the St. John community.

“There is something about this group that gets this community motivated,” Bertrand said. “It’s nice to read about something like this in the newspaper, but to actually see it happen in person is something completely different.”