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    Exhibit of Hope

    Exhibit of Hope

    Photo By Sgt. Nathaniel Free | Pvt 1st Class Mykalob Stephens and the members of his Oklahoma National Guard unit,...... read more read more



    Story by Spc. Nathaniel Free 

    128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    BEAUMONT, Texas — What does Janis Joplin’s psychedelic Porsche, Jimmy Johnson’s high school letter jacket, and the keys to the Windsor Hotel all have in common?

    They all reside in the Museum of the Gulf Coast, in Port Arthur, Texas, where Category 4 Hurricane Harvey made landfall with devastating results.

    On the morning of Sept. 9, 2017, an anxious, weathered crowd had gathered in front of the museum, the line stretching around the block, but no one was waiting to ogle at the famous collections inside. The museum was closed, doors locked and lights dimmed. In the rear parking lot, there was a different kind of exhibit on display.

    Tools and cleaning supplies were arrayed on tarps, spread across the hot tarmac. Everything from particle masks and circular saws to bleach and pry bars were marked with the same, repeating motto: “Use it. Pass it on.”

    The supplies were donated by a museum service company based in Virginia called Cortina Productions. The company has built exhibits for museums like the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. and the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

    “We were watching all the destruction on the news, and people in the office were moved,” said Amy Maddox, principal and creative producer for Cortina.
    “Our employees, friends and families gathered all this in four days. Having grown up in a flood zone, I knew what people would need. We’re about rebuilding, and these are the things people need to rebuild.”

    Maddox and her family were originally from Port Arthur. She remembered visiting the Museum of the Gulf Coast, and immediately reached out to Tom Neal, the director of the museum and member of the board of the Port Arthur Historical Society.

    “Basically, he got a cold call and I said, ‘This is what we want to do, can we partner with you?’ and he said, ‘Absolutely.’ So we drove down from Virginia.”

    They weren’t alone.

    A convoy of Humvees with Soldiers from the Oklahoma National Guard’s Company A, 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division, happened to be in the area, performing a neighborhood canvass for anyone who still needed help, when they saw the crowd around the museum and decided to stop.

    “You’re an answer to prayer, you know that?” the museum director, Tom Neal, said to the Soldiers as they approached.

    Approximately 200 people were waiting anxiously in line for much-needed supplies, and he could only allow five people through at a time. Unsure if he could manage a crowd of that size alone, Neal was reassured by the appearance of the Soldiers from Oklahoma.

    “I love helping people, but this was an eye-opening experience for me,” said Mykalob Stephens, serving with Company D, 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment. “I didn’t know it was going to be as bad as it is down here. Everyone is just starting to rebuild.”

    Stephens was able to put his expertise to use, patching up people as they stood in line.

    At noon, the museum parking lot was open to the public, and people started filtering through the piles of donations. Local volunteers from the Alpha Chi Omega sorority from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, assisted with handing out shovels, hammers, saws, and various cleaning supplies.

    “My husband’s dad built our house, now he has to tear it down,” said Deborah Scott, a Port Arthur local whose home was destroyed by flooding. “What we need now is a circular saw.”

    Scott had been standing in line since early that morning, but she said it was all worth it when she was able to get her hands on the supplies she desperately needed.

    In just a few hours, the parking lot was laid bare, with many tools put to use, rebuilding Port Arthur.

    “When you get through with a tool, pass it on,” said Neal. “Let it have a life.”



    Date Taken: 09.09.2017
    Date Posted: 09.10.2017 20:32
    Story ID: 247692
    Location: PORT ARTHUR, TX, US 

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