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MDS volunteers are turning the water back on in Texas

March 9, 2021

MDS volunteer Doug Casey shares a smile with resident of Bastrop, Texas, after restoring water in his home. 

On the last day of their weeklong volunteer service in Bastrop, Texas, Jim Ensz and Doug Casey were helping a woman with disabilities who takes care of a veteran with disabilities.

The two live in a mobile home, Ensz said. “The only water they’ve had for 19 days is a garden hose coming through the window,” he said. “We’re just hoping we can get a toilet and sink back running for them.”

Serving with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), the two men, who have been friends for more than 20 years, drove 12 hours from Beatrice, Nebraska, where they both attend First Mennonite Church. They answered a call from MDS for volunteers experienced in plumbing who could help some of the thousands of people in Texas still without water in the wake of an ice storm that struck in mid-February.

Ensz and Casey helped more than a dozen homeowners get their water working again, and most of these repair jobs have involved wedging themselves into the crawl spaces under trailer homes, turning the water on, and watching for leaks.

“Last night, under one trailer home, we counted up nine breaks,” said Ensz.

As they fixed the pipes, they used replacement ones less likely to break during a future freeze. And, Casey said, “we’ve had lots of very happy people.”

The homeowners they’ve met along the way—all referred to MDS by the Bastrop Long Term Recovery Committee—are people who had no hope of fixing the plumbing themselves.

Ensz described spending nearly an entire day underneath one doublewide mobile home: “There’s a lot of dust and critters under there,” he said.

When they were finally able to turn the water on, “we heard a scream from inside the house, so we turned the water back off and ran up there to see what was going on. It turned out that the lady was screaming with joy because she was able to turn her shower on—and it worked!”

Another young man Ensz described as a “go-getter” wanted to fix his plumbing but had neither the materials nor the experience. “We were able to give him some pipe fittings and walk him through the repair,” said Ensz, “so sometimes the job wasn’t quite what we were expecting.”

As they head home, Ensz and Casey said they are glad that more MDS plumbing crews will arrive in Texas in the coming weeks, because they see so many people who are still without water as the days—and now weeks—go by.

As they worked, Ensz and Casey also carefully followed MDS COVID-19 safety protocols. “We wore a mask whenever we approached people,” said Casey.

Ensz added that he has also received the first of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine. “I wouldn’t have come if I hadn’t had that shot,” he said.

Both Ensz and Casey said that, ultimately, helping people in Texas has made them feel closer to their neighbors in another state.

“You just want to get them water,” said Casey.

“They say that sometimes you’re more blessed than the people you bless,” added Ensz. “This is one of those times.”

View more photos here.