For the past nine years as a 4-H member in DeWitt County, Texas, Tiffany Ley has been actively involved and recognized as a leader in community service, citizenship, and leadership projects to benefit others. Her main effort was in October 1998, when she was challenged to involve 4-H families to help with flood relief efforts in her hometown.
On the morning of October 19, 1998, it was determined that the Guadalupe River was expected to overflow its banks and cause possible flooding in the rural town of Cuero. Officials were taking precautions, but with less than an hour’s warning the river had swept through and more than 2,000 homes and businesses were completely destroyed. The officials were desperate for volunteers to aid in the rescue efforts, so when Tiffany’s parents realized their home was safe, Tiffany called several other 4-H members to go to the Red Cross shelter to volunteer.
As 4-H Club President and County 4-H Chairman, Tiffany involved other youth to plan and implement more than a dozen projects and activities to help local families in need. During the months that followed, Tiffany spent more than 750 hours on flood relief efforts. The Red Cross put her to work in the shelter kitchen and she prepared meals for hundreds of people. She also performed other tasks including cleaning, watching young children while parents were taking care of business, dispensing necessary supplies to families, and just being there to listen when someone needed to talk.
Tiffany assumed leadership of working with other 4-H families to manage the distribution of clothing, furniture, and supplies that arrived in an 18-wheeler truck. Tiffany helped families create new wardrobes and furnish their homes. She spent many hours each day helping to manage the center, while spending off-hours cleaning flood victims’ homes, gathering baby food and diapers, and making care kits for victims in the shelters. Tiffany said that the hardest part was the sadness she experiences seeing so many close friends and community business leaders with nothing left and no place to live.
Even after a year, many people still tell her how much they appreciated what the 4-H program did for them in their time of need. Several of those families have now joined 4-H as a result. Throughout the experience, Tiffany and the other 4-H members learned that importance of working together as a team and using available resources.
Since Cuero has a long history as the site of many beautiful wildflowers during the springtime and, after all the flood devastation, the wildflowers still emerged to make the land beautiful again. Six months after the flood, Tiffany sent a letter and a bill to her State Representative proposing that Cuero/DeWitt County be made the Wildflower Capital of Texas, which was passed. In addition, Tiffany was appointed to serve on Governor George Bush’s Texas Youth Action Council – a group of 25 Texas teens who are working on various community service projects for 1999-2000. She was selected to serve in a leadership role with the Texas delegation at the National 4-H Congress in Atlanta in November 1999. In the end, Tiffany learned more than she ever though possible about volunteering, being a leader and serving others – and it all started with a flood.