Blessings in the midst of Rita’s Ruins

Volunteer couple from Atascadero, Calif. assists those affected by Hurricane Rita and receives blessings in return.


s it more blessed to give than receive? For many suffering from the devastation left by Hurricane Rita in Southeast Texas, a simple water bottle or a hot meal is truly a blessing. But volunteers, like Richard and Kathleen Scheider, can attest to the fact that a hot meal served to someone in need blesses both the giver and the receiver.

The Scheiders have been involved with The Salvation Army’s service extension unit in Atascadero, Calif. for eight years; they have coordinated the Christmas kettle effort and Ralph has served as president of the service extension. They also played a key role launching the Atascadero mobile canteen.

After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the Scheiders were on stand-by for several weeks. Although they did not receive a call for Katrina, they were asked to serve when Hurricane Rita followed. Traveling five days from California to Beaumont, Texas, their borrowed canteen broke down twice along the way, but they didn’t give up.

The couple didn’t know what God had in store for them but they agreed to work with storm survivors for almost a month and are delighted to be helping. “People treat each other with respect and kindness; they’re being very careful what they take so that there is enough food for others,” says Kathleen. Although distributing hot meals, snacks, and drinks to the people may seem a simple thing, she knows that “…it makes a huge difference.”

While Kathleen serves meals, Richard meets survivors and brings them to the canteen. “Everyone has a story to tell,” explains Richard. “Some of these stories you’ll never forget.”

He recalls a woman in her mid-fifties; every time he took a step toward her, she took a step back; he didn’t know why she was afraid. Eventually the woman explained that she smelled bad from cleaning her home, especially her refrigerator.

“Kathleen and I told her that we didn’t smell any better than she did; then we gave her a few hugs to comfort her, as well as a hot meal.”

There are countless stories where the survivors have touched the hearts of the Scheiders. “We’re grateful for them and the example they’re setting for us. I’m getting more out of this than I’m giving,” says Kathleen. “People thank us for the food and drinks; we tell them, ‘No––thank you. It’s a blessing to serve you!’”

Acts 20:35 comes to mind: “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

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