While disasters often bring heartbreak, pain and stress, they also work as a way to show the best in people. With the after effects of the Derecho storm still being felt, Heather Eason decided it was important for her organization Comeback Coolers to take action and bring a little relief to those struggling.
“We were reading about the storms that were up here and we didn’t realize the magnitude of them because they haven’t been getting the press, at least down south, that they deserve,” Eason said. “We were talking about maybe sending some drinks here because they were serving some meals out of community center then we just decided, let’s do a mission. There were so many people from here willing to volunteer and go out and help the people, so we’re using volunteers from here and talking about what we have done and bringing that aspect to it.”
The organization uses ice cold drinks packed in coolers covered with words of encouragement as a way to uplift those in the thick of dealing with disasters. Along with adult drinks, there are coolers for children and the line men working on restoring power.
“All of the coolers have drinks, oranges and wet wipes that way if you are hot, sometimes that wet wipe, if you are really dirty, feels really good,” Eason said. “Every child that we see will get their own cooler. They are filled with toys, they always have some kind of writing utensils and book in them, there is a ball, a deck of cards. Every linemen will get beef jerky, a cooling towel, moisture wicking socks, athlete’s foot powder, gloves, candy and a sports drink. Those guys, they just work and work and work until it is done.”
Eason got the idea for Comeback Coolers after dealing with her own disaster in Hurricane Katrina.
“I was in Hurricane Katrina when the water came in the house and I just keep thinking that somebody that could help, what was it after that storm that made me feel better,” Eason said. “About a week after that storm we had been working and without power and my mom pulled up in a truck and opened up the back of it and there was an ice chest full of ice cold beer. There was about eight of us and we took our first drink in about eight days and we knew at that moment things were going to return to normal eventually. We just shared a moment, took a break from all of the work that we had been doing and it was such an impactful moment in my life.”
Years later when a flood hit Denham Springs, La., Eason made her idea a reality and packed people’s old coolers she collected, drove them to the area and handed them out. She received such a great response to the first outing she knew it was something she had to continue.
“The following year when Texas had a hurricane the people the Denham Springs started their own cooler gathering and paid it forward and the next year we went to Texas and then they paid it forward,” Eason said. “This will be our 12th mission.”
The group was heading out to the hardest hit areas after packing up supplies at the Mingo Community Center Saturday. Between 60 to 70 coolers lined the walls, all covered in words and pictures of hope and inspiration, ready to lift up someone who may be down after the storm.
“It has really just become a pay-it-forward event,” Eason said. “People just love to love because a lot of times there’s organizations that bring in the things that we need, the cleaning supplies, the tarps for the roofs. What we do is just bring in love and hope and care and that is something that has really been important to people.”
Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or firstname.lastname@example.org