Wichita Falls is known for its hospitality, and after the hurricane and subsequent floods in Houston, our town was an oasis for some of the evacuees. “It is our job to welcome visitors to Wichita Falls, whether they are here for a meeting, an event, or even for a situation like that,” said Lindsay Barker, Director of Conventions and Visitors Bureau (CVB), referring to the flooding.
The staff of the CVB brainstormed ways to help the evacuees. “We made up a list of local businesses, restaurants, and contacts that we could each call that we felt like would meet the immediate needs of the evacuees,” Barker said. “We got several donations from restaurants, and English Pharmacy donated basic toiletry items and over the counter medicine like Tylenol. Star Bright Cleaners donated gift cards. We had several of the local attractions and museums, as well as the Backdoor Theatre and The Wichita Theater, donate passes and tickets for their entertainment.”
Wichita Falls Independent School District donated tickets for the Friday night football games, and Arrowhead Roofing donated their roofing services. “Then the word got out, and we had churches and individuals donate diapers, formula and gift cards from Wal-Mart and other places like that,” she said.
The CVB were in communication with hotels and the RV Park and Lake Arrowhead state park to see how many evacuees were at the different locations. The whole state of Texas waved reservation fees and Lake Arrowhead followed suit. “We put together packets and delivered them to the evacuees,” Barker explained. “From there, the different entities have kept us updated if they have ongoing needs that we could help with.” Barker said that at this time all of the Houston visitors have gone home except for one group at one hotel. “We just wanted to help where we could, however we could, and we were overwhelmed with the response from the local community and their desire to help. I think everyone we asked for any help immediately said yes, and we couldn’t have done it without those partners,” she said.
“Wichita Falls is a great place to live and visit. We were so appreciative, and I think it says that our town and community are willing to help without hesitation. We want to welcome visitors to Wichita Falls no matter the circumstances,” Barker said with a smile. “People wanted a way to help and we just provided an avenue for it.”