"Christmas of a different kind by helping others recovering from disaster" By Aaron Sumrall, PhD County Extension Agent Agriculture & Natural Resources

   Sometimes gifts come in different packages and at different times of the year in a myriad of locations and this held true this year at Christmas for me.  
   As a County Extension Agent, we tend to wear a lot of different hats and no college course can prepared us for some of the things we have or are asked to do to serve those in our communities, Texas, across this great Nation, and the World!  
   I have had the opportunity with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to receive great training in various fields, with one being emergency management as have many other agents.  
   Applying this training in combination with the many disaster experiences we have had and I, and many of my colleagues, have become proficient in broad, reaching aspects surrounding emergency issues.  
   It has become apparent that many other states have noticed the effectiveness in which Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has evolved with regard to emergency management and helping lives in catastrophic experiences.  
   Earlier this year, North Carolina took that recognition to the next level by asking for Texas A&M AgriLife assistance with recovery efforts following Hurricane Florence.  
   Others have followed suit. In mid-December (last month) California also made that call, requesting service following the horrendous wildfires that ravished Butte and surrounding counties. In the heart of this affected area was Paradise, Calif., in which estimates indicate that 95 percent of the town was destroyed and 84 lives were lost.  
   This particular fire consumed more than 155,000 acres. The California request was for a hybrid team of veterinarians, agents, and logistics.  
   I was honored, along with other agents, in getting the call to assist. I was part of an eight-person team consisting of the aforementioned members and left on the first wave headed west Dec. 20.  
   News and pictures cannot accurately convey the destruction experienced by the named Camp Fire to lives, homes, business and industry, agriculture, the human psyche, and so much more. Hurricane Harvey did much of the same here so we all know what the folks in California were/are going through.  
   Our team was asked to assist with multiple task associated with livestock, pets, people, logistics, and organization to better allow California to help in putting the lives of their citizens back together.  
   Our team had a cast of support second to none to make this happen.  
   There were 30 unbelievable California Army National Guard and a host of other volunteers pouring out hearts and effort to serve those in this great time of need.  
   I will not go into the specifics of the duties, but this week-long experience was better than any wrapped package under a tree. Sure, I would have much rather spent Christmas with my kids, and I missed not getting to, but the humble joy of getting to be a part of something like this is life-changing.  
   We, as a state or country, may squabble and bicker about things that give us heartburn, but when it is time to strap up, we all stand together with disregard for personal or political views, ambitions or glory and serve those around us!  
   This trip allowed me to hit the reset button on a lot of things and refine my focus.  
   Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency team members are still there as fresh folks are rotating in to keep the mission of service going as long as needed.  
   We often tend to see situations as this in nothing but a negative light and it may be tough to see how good can come from it, but God brings gifts in many different types of wrappings and we just have to see what unfolds and where it takes us. 
   I hope the best for you and your family during 2019 and I look forward to helping you and Matagorda County where needed in the year to come! 
   God Bless! 

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