Roderick Jolivette had a twofold mission in traveling to Austin, Texas, last month.
The Douglas County fire chief wanted to ensure that teddy bears collected by his department made it to the Lone Star State, and in addition, he wanted to gather more information in the aftermath of the storms that ravaged the state.
For about a month, the county fire department collected new teddy bears for a program they called #BearHugsforTexas in an effort to show support to the children in Austin that were affected by Winter Storm Uri.
Many areas of the state were left without electricity and water because of power outages.
“Our deepest gratitude to Chief Jolivette and his department — as well as the generous community members of Georgia cities of Lithia Springs, Douglasville, Villa Rica and Austell — who created, coordinated, and collected these hundreds of bears, all unbeknownst to us, until we received the call they were ready to come to Austin,” Austin Fire Chief Joel Baker said.
“They were well received,” Jolivette said Monday morning.
Jolivette said he met with Baker and his staff to learn about the struggles to provide services to residents because of logistics issues as a result of not having water or electricity.
It has been reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) that about 111 residents in Texas died as a result of the February storm.
According to DSHS, a large majority of the deaths were associated with hypothermia.
“There have also been multiple deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents, carbon monoxide poisoning, medical equipment failure, exacerbation of chronic illness, lack of home oxygen, falls, and fire,” the report read according to CNN.
“We learned what we can do if we are put into that position in Douglas County,” Jolivette said. “My main goal being there was to learn how to handle that type of situation if we are ever effected by that kind of storm. It was a sharing of ideas in a effort to keep our citizens safe.”
Jolivette said the AFD has a $199 million budget with 50 fire stations.
“They were willing to give back and offered help to us in gaining more knowledge,” Jolivette said. “They have a department that has many programs and a grant writer.”
In addition, Jolivette said that students in the Austin school system would like to begin being pen pals with students in the county.
He said he will speak with Douglas County Schools Superintendent Trent North when the school system returns from spring break.
“They want to get our school system involved,” Jolivette said. “I think it will be good for networking and relationship building.”