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Town filled with gratitude: Port Aransas thankful for Farmington's support

Port Aransas gave a gratitude sign to Farmington community leaders who traveled to the coastal town devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Pictured are Bobbi Bowler, Dianna Burgess, LeAnna Morgan of Port Aransas and Amy Flom of Thrivent Financial Minnesota Valley Associates in Farmington. Submitted photo1 / 2
Since Farmington adopted Port Aransas, Texas, there have been relationships and friendships formed. Farmington Mayor Todd Larson plans to travel to the town with family, and he shows a copy of the local newspaper covered with words of gratitude. Kara Hildreth / contributor 2 / 2

When Rich Klahr drove his Wayne Transports 18-wheeler into a Port Aransas neighborhood, he was welcomed like a superhero.

Klahr was showered with applause and hugs from 40 volunteers who stood in the street cheering and giving him standing ovations. He drove 1,350 miles over 20 hours from Farmington to Port Aransas with a truckload of cleaning supplies, lumber, windows, doors and small appliances to donate to the coastal Texas town that experienced 85 percent loss of homes, businesses and schools after Hurricane Harvey.

Wayne Transports, Inc., headquartered in Rosemount, stepped up to donate a semi-truck, fuel and manpower to make the road trip of goodwill possible.

"Everyone erupted in cheers and was clapping and it was very emotional throughout entire process with the truck arriving and unloading, and there were lots of tears," Klahr said. "It was eye opening and an honor to work for a company like Wayne Transports that allowed me to make this trip."

As a cousin to Amy Flom's husband, Klahr was excited to become the messenger of goodwill. Flom works at Thrivent Financial in Farmington, the company that donated $10,000 toward the Drop in the Bucket community effort.

Joy and excitement

"For me, it was the entire experience and I got to see the joy and excitement on all the people's faces who put this together, and then I got to see the end result and see all the gratitude on the receiving end and see it all come together," Klahr said.

Bobbi Bowler, pastor of Sandcastles Christian Church in Port Aransas, said Farmington's Drop in the Bucket effort has helped residents who live in the coastal tourist town and across the state of Texas.

"The love and support from Farmington was just not things being sent down but the love behind them touched their hearts, and not just the people here but other people did not know the north part of the country felt so strongly about people here in Texas," Bowler said. "It really has touched the hearts and minds of all of Texas about how much a town can help out fellow Americans when the chips are down. It is amazing all the work done and everyone was so kind and loving who came to visit."

As a former stay-at-home mother and school teacher for 12 years, Bowler became a pastor less than a year ago after she felt a calling in Port Aransas. She aimed to minister to tourists and encourage them to have fun by learning to build sandcastles on the beach's coastline.

Now she understands why she received this spiritual calling.

Today Bowler leads a team of volunteers at the donation and distribution center that is warehoused in a home and opens each day. Community members show up daily for food, supplies, tools and words of encouragement.

The community of business owners, residents and civic leaders have a long journey ahead to rebuild as there are still a few hundred residents who are without electricity and running water.

Bowler said residents show up in a steady flow each day.

"They do not always know what they need or want, but they just need to know someone is there and I am here willing to listen and pray and let them know, 'Yeah, it is hard but we are all doing it together,'" Bowler said. "I feel the center has been called to unite the community, and people who work in the center work are second homeowners who winter in Texas and live up north."

Port Aransas community leader LeAnna Morgan said the donated cleaning supplies and tools have empowered residents.

"The Farmington community and mayor, we love them with all our hearts and respect them and we invite all to come to be a part of our community because we are all so grateful," Morgan said.