SEYMOUR, Ind. (WISH) — Officers in Indiana established a donation fund for a fellow “brother in blue” when they learned the Texas police sergeant’s home had been destroyed by catastrophic flooding in the wake of Harvey.
The GoFundMe campaign, dubbed “Hurricane Harvey Back The Blue,” is part of a Seymour Police Department initiative led by Officer Jacob Florine.
He had never met or spoken to the beneficiary, Lumberton Police Sgt. Cody Davis, but said they connected online after he reached out to law enforcement groups on Facebook.
“I wanted to start some kind of fundraiser to help people when I saw what was happening with the hurricanes and flooding,” Florine said. “Police officers can sometimes be reluctant to ask for help, even when they desperately need it… So I asked around and wanted to see if they knew of a law enforcement family that needed anything.”
Within days, his contacts led him to Davis, a stranger 900 miles away in waterlogged Hardin County, approximately 15 miles north of Beaumont, Texas.
“They told me their story and [I thought,] ‘Oh man, I have to do something,'” Florine told 24-Hour News 8. “I can’t let a brother in blue suffer like that.”
Davis was working a police department shift the night Harvey tore through Hardin County and feared the worst as he made his way home through the torrential downpour, he said.
His voice cracked as he recalled the panic he felt when he saw the rising floodwaters outside his family’s home. His wife, Andrea, and two young children – Emma and Cain – were still asleep inside.
“The rain just kept on [coming down],” Davis said Tuesday in an emotion-filled phone conversation with 24-Hour News 8. “Nobody thought it was going to do what it did.”
He struggled to enter the house – already filling with water – and barely had time to help his family and their pets get out before flooding rose to dangerous levels. While his wife and children waited at the police department, Davis attempted to make another trip home to pick up clothing, food and medication for them.
“Fortunately, he had a kayak with him because as he was leaving the neighborhood… the water got to about six feet deep,” said Florine. “His truck was flooded out and their home was just a total loss. Nothing was salvageable. He barely got out himself.”
Only the peak of the structure’s roof was visible above water when it stopped raining.
The Seymour officer, also a father of two young children, paused as he tried to imagine himself in the Lumberton sergeant’s boots.
“I can’t imagine [being] in their shoes but I know if I were, there would be people helping me just like I’m helping them,” said Florine.
Davis was initially reluctant to accept help from the Seymour Police Department – or anyone in his own community – but relented when he thought of his 9-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. The family of four is currently staying in a borrowed camper.
“It was tough because I’m the one people usually come to for help,” Davis explained. “I’m the one who can take care of my own business and take care of my family… It was definitely tough [accepting] that I needed help this time.”
In the days that followed, his reluctance gave way to gratitude and overwhelming emotion.
“I can’t thank Jake or the people of Seymour enough,” Davis said, letting tears fall freely for the first time in days. “I would [help them, too] in a heartbeat.”
The GoFundMe campaign was listed as “trending” and had raised more than $3,400 by Wednesday morning, creeping closer to the Seymour Police Department’s goal of $10,000 and bringing two strangers from communities seemingly worlds apart closer together.
“He was making fun of my dialect over text because I use the world ‘y’all’ a lot,” Davis laughed.
His out-of-state law enforcement “brothers” responded with a message from Central Indiana to Southeastern Texas: Y’all are never far from Hoosier hospitality.
Click here to view the GoFundMe campaign.