Prologue: Our newscasts and web posts have been filled with the tragedy that left much of South Texas underwater and several dozen dead. We’ve seen heroes rise to help strangers from roof tops and flood-swollen roads. And locally, as across the nation, people are coming forward with offers to help: cases of water, money to buy flood kits, cases of critically need supplies. But what happens when that loss is one home, one family during the time of year when school is starting and summer is ending? The result, even on a much smaller scale, is that same as Candice Williams discovered last month.
Media release: Candice Williams thought it was going to be a Wednesday like any other.
That morning, she got up at the crack of dawn, put the coffee on and went about her usual routine. She coordinated getting her son to school and her daughter to daycare. She kissed her husband goodbye as she left for work at Harbin Clinic Imaging where she’s a patient service representative.
But during her work day, Williams life changed.
“My phone rang and it was someone telling me my house had been on fire and I needed to get down there right away,” she says. “I thought maybe it was something small… like the stove caught on fire and the kitchen was damaged. Something to that degree.”
But on that early August day, Williams stood in her yard, still in her scrubs, watching as firefighters soaked the remaining embers of their rental. The Fire Marshal told her the home was a total loss.
“We lost everything,” she says. “All my photos, the boxes of keepsakes I kept that had my kids’ hospital bracelets. I used to complain about our bed, it was so uncomfortable. But what would I give to sleep in that bed one more time?”
Swooping in to Help
While Williams surveyed the damage, she called Dana Czekalla, her manager, and Office Coordinator Kayleigh Bridges to keep them informed.
“Candice told me everything was gone, and Dana and I felt we needed to do something. We sent out an email to managers and their staff,” Bridges says. “Within minutes, I had calls, emails and donations coming in. It was humbling to see the kinds of responses we were getting. It amazed me, it really did.”
Czekalla everyone flocked to give to a fellow employee they didn’t really know.
“Candice has only been working at Harbin for a few months but she’s a Harbin Clinic employee, and that’s what mattered to them,” says Czekalla. “The compassion people showed was astounding.”
“We had carloads full,” says Bridges, shaking her head in disbelief. “Everyone was giving clothes, household items, money… it’s truly been a blessing.”
For Williams, the demonstration of support left her speechless.
“My heart is overwhelmed,” she says. “The day after the fire, people I don’t even know were giving us things we needed, along with support and love. I’ve not even been here for five months. The only thing I can say is thank you.”
Because of the donations and support they’ve received, Williams and her husband Joey, along with their son Preston who is 6 and daughter, 2-year-old Zannah, feel like they’re in a good place to start over.
“I’m so grateful to Harbin Clinic; everybody has been so wonderful to me and my family,” she says. “I thought I’d lost everything, but I think I gained more than what I had before, and I’m not talking about material items.”
For now, Williams says what she and her family need most is time to adjust.
“We have a house to stay in until we can find something else,” she says. “We have clothes and food and what we need to get by while we start over. Right now mostly we need prayers and support
“Never in a million years would I have expected to have a work family like this one or to be a part of something so great,” says Williams. “I feel like I’m not alone.”