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Volunteers gather, distribute supplies for deaf and hard of hearing communities

Posted at 2:38 PM, Feb 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-20 22:53:20-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Although the city’s boil water notice has been lifted — with much of the area’s electricity now restored — a grassroots effort is still being made to ensure that members of the Coastal Bend’s deaf communities are properly equipped for the coming days.

“We wanted to give the opportunity for our Deaf and Hard of Hearing community to come out and get their resources,” said Kimberly Patella, a local sign language interpreter who volunteered her time Saturday. “So far, we’ve had a great response from our community. It’s just also so nice to see them — we haven’t seen a lot of folks since COVID started.”

Patella, a former Deaf Community Board member said the idea started gaining traction after she reached out to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center’s director Thursday evening to see if she could use the center to give and receive donations.

“She immediately said yes,” Patella said, adding that the area’s Deaf community isn’t always aware of what resources the city or other organizations may be offering. “We get a lot of our information from social media and from videos that don’t always have captions, so that often leads a minority group of people which is our Deaf and Hard of Hearing community out of the loop.”

On Friday, the center exclusively accepted donations ranging from bottled water and non-perishable foods to jackets and other clothing. On Saturday, volunteers at the center opened their doors for the community to pick up supplies from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Patella credits Del Mar College, Corpus Christi Interpreters for the Deaf, as well as members of her community for making the drive possible.

All Hands On, a Georgia-based non-profit that works to foster relationships between the Deaf community and local emergency managers, also donated supplies to Corpus Christi after delivering generators and other items to Houston.

The organization’s executive director, Aaron Shoemaker, echoed the challenges the Deaf community faces once resources like electricity are stripped away.

“Access to communication and resources is a problem for everybody, but it’s a specific struggle for members of the Deaf Community,” Shoemaker said. “When the power goes out — their video phones don’t work. So, their ability to communicate outside of their home, to communicate with each other, and to access resources is equally diminished.”

Shoemaker said the issues the Deaf Community in the Coastal Bend have experienced are quite similar areas like Houston and Austin. Still, he said he appreciates seeing local organizations step up to help.

“I’m here because of the support of the Deaf Community in Georgia and all over the country that have been donating funds and donating material,” Shoemaker said. “I’m just the delivery guy — the real heroes are all the deaf community members who are supporting each other during a crisis.”