PEC lineworkers, employees go beyond the lines for Hurricane Harvey victims

We came together to help victims in Southeast Texas

When Hurricane Harvey hit, PEC employees wanted to help. Lineworkers were dispatched to help neighboring cooperatives restore power, and individual staff came together with an outpouring of charitable giving and volunteerism to help Southeast Texans get back on their feet.

PEC lineworkers

Cooperatives abide by a set of cooperative principles, including cooperation among cooperatives, and we take that commitment seriously. That’s why PEC dispatched 20 crew members to help restore power for Jackson Electric Cooperative (JEC) in Ganado, Texas.

On Sunday, Aug. 28, PEC Regional Operations Supervisor Thomas Castillo learned that he and 20 other linemen from our Bertram and Liberty Hill districts would be dispatched to help. Castillo got “little butterflies” when he received the call and was incredibly excited to help get the lights back on.

The very next morning, PEC crews rolled out, stopping to refuel every two hours due to the gas shortage. The closer they got to Interstate Highway 10, the more damage they encountered.

“The bridges were filled to the top [with water], fields were full of water, electric poles were lying on the ground and off the highway,” Castillo said. “It was unbelievable. We clearly didn’t know how much work we were getting into.”

Our crews were assigned to reenergize a substation when they arrived in Ganado. Castillo said it sounded like a lot of work at first, but this job wasn’t much different from what they do day to day in our own service territory. The mosquitos might have been one of the worst obstacles they faced.

“There would be hundreds of them on you sometimes,” Castillo said. “They would just cover your body, and sometimes it got so bad that you couldn’t even hardly think straight.”

But our heroes in blue pushed through, replacing 15 poles, 100 insulators and 20 crossarms during seven back-to-back, 16-hour workdays.

“We had the manpower to get it done in a timely manner,” Castillo said. “I was really impressed with everybody. We went down there, and everybody understood why we were there and what we needed to do to help get these people their power back.”

And their quality work didn’t go unnoticed. Many of JEC’s members brought our crews water and expressed how thankful they were for their help. Even local staff went out of their way to make PEC feel right at home.

“JEC treated us like their sons,” PEC Journeyworker Chris Scott said. “They would have homemade breakfast ready for us at the office at 5:45 a.m., and when we got off at 8 p.m., they made a homemade dinner for us, too. We worked from sunup to sundown, and we appreciated their hospitality.”

Our Bertram and Liberty Hill crews are thankful for the opportunity to help our neighbors in need and are proud to have JEC’s employees as part of our cooperative family.

“There were people without power for four to five days, and it felt so good to be down there helping them,” Castillo said. “I think I can speak for everyone when saying that we were all grateful just to help our fellow Texans.”

Not only did our lineworkers go beyond the lines to help other Texas cooperatives, but in true PEC fashion, our employees collected and delivered supplies and funds to communities in need, hosted fundraisers in our offices and cared for rescued animals.

PEC Electrical Distribution Designer Brandon Butts

three men in front of table
PEC Electrical Distribution Designer Brandon Butts (middle) and his brother, Brady (right), in a church parking lot serving food to Hurricane Harvey victims.

PEC Electrical Distribution Designer Brandon Butts and his brother, Brady, wanted to focus on helping small towns affected by the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. They decided to tow their two jet skis to towns near the Louisiana border on Aug. 29 to help with rescues and flood relief. But they didn’t stop there. The Buttses announced with a Facebook post that they were going to an H-E-B in Lampasas that night to accept donations of baby items, food and other supplies for Hurricane Harvey victims. Three hours later, they loaded the items and headed out to deliver supplies to the town of Hockley.

On Aug. 30, they made their way to Beaumont to offer more help, but they stopped in Dayton and were asked to help the Cajun Navy, and they gladly accepted. They rode on their jet skis throughout flooded neighborhoods checking to see if any people or pets had been left behind. After assisting the Cajun Navy, they drove to a nearby Walmart and loaded their carts full of hot dogs, chips, drinks and cookies and went across the road to a church parking lot to cook for and feed more than 100 people. Last but not least, the Buttses made one last trip out to Orange on Aug. 31 to serve more food and provide supplies for those in need. They grilled throughout the afternoon and served about 300 people.

PEC Member Services Agent Charlie Moore

semi-truck full of boxes and supplies
PEC Member Services Agent Charlie Moore helped fill a U-Haul with supplies to take to Hurricane Harvey victims.

During September, a large cardboard box sat on PEC Member Services Agent Charlie Moore’s desk for Hurricane Harvey relief. Moore was inspired to help those in need in Lamar, Texas, by his CrossFit coach’s dad. Moore and his coach’s family teamed up with Pecan Street Brewing in Johnson City to bring relief to the small town, collecting needed supplies and renting a U-Haul to deliver them.

Moore also asked his PEC coworkers to give what they could, and as always, they gave from the heart, filling and re-filling his donations box with groceries and toiletries, he said. On Sept. 1 and Sept. 6, several Johnson City volunteers took Moore’s donations to the Lamar Fire Department, where they helped distribute the items.

Communications and Marketing department’s Tailgate Throwdown

Everybody loves a good potluck, which is why our Communications and Marketing department hosted a “Tailgate Throwdown” on Sept. 7 to benefit hurricane victims. Employees from a variety of PEC departments brought their favorite chip-and-dip and tailgate recipes, and for $10 a person, could eat as much as they liked. Together, the department raised $900 for the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, which benefits Houston and the greater Metroplex, and the Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group Fund, which benefits a seven-county region (Aransas, Bee, Jim Wells, Kleberg, Nueces, Refugio and San Patricio counties) impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

PEC Engineering Assistant Randa Jacoby

PEC Engineering Assistant Randa Jacoby knew she wanted to help victims immediately following the storm and began to collect donations at work and on social media. She also wanted to physically hand the supplies out to the people who needed them most.

On Sept. 2, she and her family loaded their trailer and headed to Goliad, Bayside and Rockport to distribute donated items. While they were in Rockport, Jacoby met a woman named Anna Chupe in a local Walmart bathroom. Chupe had no power and no running water but wanted to help her neighbors with the Jacobys’ supplies. Together, they cleared out all the items in Jacoby’s trailer to give to Chupe’s neighbors, and Jacoby hopes to make another trip back to Rockport soon with even more donations from her co-workers and friends.

PEC Member Services Agent Sarah Fischer

woman with horse
PEC Member Services Agent Sarah Fischer helping rescued horses at Healing Horse Ranch.

Sadly, many of the Hurricane Harvey victims were animals: pets and strays alike. PEC Member Services Agent Sarah Fischer has a heart for horses, so when the Healing Horse Ranch in Dripping Springs asked for volunteers to help care for rescued horses from Beaumont, she didn’t hesitate to help. Since Aug. 4, she’s been treating wounds and soothing the horses before and after work, as well as on her lunch break.

PEC Member Services Supervisor Silvia Perez

tent covered packages of water bottles and supplies
PEC Member Services Supervisor Silvia Perez and her brother helped hand out supplies to first responders during Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

Thanks to her fishing friends and community, her co-workers and even PEC members, PEC Member Services Supervisor Silvia Perez was able to collect enough donations for not one, but two trips to Rockport to help hurricane victims. From Sept. 6-7, Perez and her brother handed out supplies and cooked food for first responders and lineworkers.

Technology Center’s Dessert Challenge

Our Technology Center staff is known for stepping up to help people in need, and the devastation from Hurricane Harvey was no exception. With their motto, “Eat. Compete. Make ends meet,” competitors brought their best dessert Aug. 29, and tasters were asked to vote by putting money into the jar beside their favorite entry. The event raised $550 in less than an hour, and all proceeds went to the Texas Gulf Coast Region of the American Red Cross.