VAN — Texas' first lady Cecilia Abbott spent her day Wednesday in Van, offering support and encouragement to residents of the tornado-ravaged town.
Mrs. Abbott arrived with a trunk-load of items donated by students from her daughter's senior class. The teens, students at St. Andrews Episcopal School in Austin, decided to pitch in and bring items to a graduation party the Abbott family hosted last week.
The first lady toured the damaged middle school and met with volunteers and students, after which she attended a roundtable at local business Texas Cellnet with Mayor Dean Stone of Van, Van Zandt County Sheriff Lindsey Ray and other local officials.
Mrs. Abbott discussed the city's needs, where officials stressed the importance of specific items. For instance, workers have more water than they need, but there is a huge demand for Gatorade to keep volunteers replenished while working in the heat.
Mrs. Abbott remarked on how local residents were able to press through grief, redirecting their energy toward efforts of rebuilding.
"This is a mourning period, and yet this is the way you come out of it, by helping in some way," Mrs. Abbott said. "This is Texas."
Stone stressed the important effort of ensuring that victims have adequate housing, that they are able to stay in the area and avoid relocating.
"One thing about Van, these are unique people. They are not gonna ask for help," Stone said. "They are can-do people."
While being shown pictures of the progress made since the storm, Mrs. Abbott commented how incredible it was that the community had accomplished so much in just 10 days.
"Here, people just take care of each other," she said.