ELGIN, Texas (KXAN) — Thursday marks one month since six tornadoes ripped through Central Texas, damaging or destroying thousands of homes throughout the region and leading to Gov. Greg Abbott’s disaster declaration for 16 counties statewide.
In the month since, the initial shock has pivoted toward long-term recovery efforts. Along the way, community members and businesses are stepping in and stepping up to help rebuild.
For nearly three years, Chemn Cafe has been a staple in downtown Elgin, both a community resource and a source of news, collaboration and conversations for customers. The March 21 tornadoes were not the shop’s first brush with disaster recovery efforts; that came with the February 2021 freeze, when the cafe pivoted to a one-stop shop for resources and assistance for those impacted.
The Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management reported March 22 the tornadoes damaged or destroyed 65 homes countywide, many of them in Elgin. On the morning after the March tornadoes, owner Monica Nava said she knew she needed to do something to support her customers and community.
“We know what the community does here, is they jump to help others really quickly,” she said.
Nava and her daughter, Chemn Cafe manager Deja Cooper, posted on Facebook the coffee shop would begin accepting donated plastic bins, canned goods, water, clothes and “petty cash” for those looking to assist. They also collaborated with fellow local businesses, like A Flower Connection, Smash Daddies restaurant and Lions Club Thrift Shop, that were also helping with collecting and distributing donated items.
“It just grows legs, and everybody wants to help,” Nava said. “So it’s nice to be able to be like, one little piece of space that can provide information back and forth to everybody.”
A month removed from the storm, Nava and Cooper said the initial shock of the situation has waned as storm victims have turned toward long-term recovery efforts.
The Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team provides case management and help with cleanups and home builds while providing spiritual, mental and emotional health services to those affected.
From a financial standpoint, Nava said now’s the time many residents are navigating insurance claims and the paperwork that goes into storm recovery efforts. Alongside the tornadoes’ physical toll, though, Cooper said an equally heavy, emotional one has hit residents.
“There’s some kids that are really struggling with losing everything that they have and kind of having to figure out or watching the process of trying to figure out how things are going to go back to the new normal,” Cooper said. “So I think that [people need] some emotional support for kids and parents as well, that have lost.”
And while the tornadoes’ impacts might not be top of mind for everyone, that doesn’t mean those damages aren’t an everyday rebuilding effort for victims.
“Just because it happened a month ago doesn’t mean it’s something that’s fixed,” Nava said. “It’s still ongoing.”