East Texas woman takes gifts to children
By Dave Havir
LONGVIEW, TEXAS--Dianne Webb of Longview, Texas, recently took 160 gift bags to families in Florida who were affected by Hurricane Charley as part of a continuing effort of her nonprofit organization, Comfort Express, to help the children of tragedies.
Over the years Mrs. Webb, a member of a Church of God home fellowship, had watched families deal with tragedies like forest fires and hurricanes, so she developed a special interest in the children of those tragedies.
"I imagined my 2-year-old grandchild and wondered what it would be like for the children to lose their homes and their belongings," Mrs. Webb said.
In 2003 she decided to do something about it.
She created Comfort Express, a not-for-profit organization she designed to ease the fears of displaced children. Her organization was featured on the front page of The Longview News-Journal of Dec. 1 under the headline "Fast Healing Power: Local Woman Hopes Charity Will Help Soothe Children After Disasters."
Besides the newspaper coverage, Mrs. Webb has appeared on two occasions on newscasts of KLTV, a Tyler television station.
"The television station interviewed me in December of 2003 and again just prior to our trip to Florida this month," she said.
Mrs. Webb is quick to express her appreciation for the "valiant effort" of many of the larger relief agencies that help in crisis situations, but she wanted to help out by adding "an extra focus on the children."
Helping in Texas
Mrs. Webb is also quick to point out that her efforts are not meant as a proselytizing effort to bring people into any church group.
"Our goal is to follow Jesus' teachings in Matthew 25 about helping the needy," she said.
Most of Mrs. Webb's efforts have centered on East Texas.
"We started giving packages to crisis centers in the community," she said. "Through this year we are averaging 12 individual gift bags per week."
The typical gift bag includes a stuffed toy, small age-appropriate toys, a reading book, a coloring book, a box of 24-count crayons and grooming supplies.
Although Mrs. Webb seeks to regularly help her East Texas neighbors, she is also interested in assisting in other parts of the United States.
"Although Comfort Express can only provide a little help at a national crisis scene, we believe that, when many people give a little bit of help, a whole lot gets done," she said.
A few months ago Mrs. Webb took 50 packages to Hearne, Texas, to assist when spring floodwaters overwhelmed some of the residences.
When Hurricane Charley wreaked so much devastation in Florida, Mrs. Webb and her husband, Mike (who is blind), drove to the area with their donations.
They left Aug. 18 and arrived Aug. 20.
"We checked in with the FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] headquarters in Tampa, Fla., before proceeding to the disaster area," she said.
"When we reached North Point, Fla. [just north of Port Charlotte], we joined with two trucks from the Biscayne Baptist Church and traveled with them into Port Charlotte.
"Then we set up in a drop-off zone and distributed our supplies."
Along with the 160 bags went 36 bags of diapers and 36 containers of baby wipes.
Mrs. Webb mentioned her reaction to seeing the effects of the hurricane close up.
"It is amazing to see the destruction to property that a hurricane can cause," she said.
Mrs. Webb also described her reaction to running out of supplies.
"It broke my heart," she said. "There were so many needs, and we could only do so much."
Mrs. Webb said the experience of visiting the disaster scene gave her a "renewed sense of purpose."
Those who want to know more about Comfort Express and how they can help this service organization can visit www.comfortexpressinc.org.
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