Fourteen-year-old Manney Flores sat in the office of Acton Middle School librarian Menielle Donahoo two days after his family’s home was damaged by the May 15 tornado.
As the “man of the house” despite his age, he had just learned a troubling fact.
“I just found out last night we didn’t have insurance,” he told Donahoo, who has helped mentor Manney in his school work and guided him away from trouble since kindergarten.
Little did they know that four months later, Manney’s family would be on the verge of moving back into their Rancho Brazos home after an unlikely and unexpected “makeover” – repaired, with new furnishings and appliances made possible through donated items and old-fashion volunteer manpower.
On the night of the tornado, Manney’s quick thinking may have saved the lives of two friends when he rushed them indoors as the twister approached. He and six others became trapped under a collapsed roof of a neighbor’s home before being rescued by first responders.
As the tornado approached, Manney was outside with a few others at the home of Thomas and Angela Nettles on Tumbleweed Lane, about four blocks away from where he lived. Manney’s mother, Malonie Flores, was at work as a certified nurse’s aide at Granbury Care Center. Her other son, 4-year-old Kenneth Woolsey, was staying with a babysitter.
The weather hadn’t seemed threatening, Manney said, but suddenly the sky turned gray, and rain began to fall. He realized they needed to find shelter inside after the circling wind accelerated and started pulling at his clothes.
Manney put his arms around 10-year-old Joseph Youngblood and 13-year-old Nathan Nettles and led them into the bathroom of their home. They huddled inside with Thomas and Angela Nettles and their two older teen daughters, Caitlyn, 16, and Madalyn, 18.
Manney secured himself by wrapping his legs around the toilet while the younger children held on to him.
“If we were a few seconds later (going inside) we probably would have been in the air. I was real scared,” Manney said. “When the roof came off, we could actually see the tornado around us.”
They were underneath debris and couldn’t free themselves. First responders arrived about an hour later and began the process of digging them out of the rubble.
“It was just enough (clearance) to where (the rubble) didn’t squish us,” Manney said, in a manner more indicative of his age. “There was no opening. They had to come get us out with axes.”
Before the first responders arrived, he wondered “if we were ever going to get out. It was like the longest hour in the world. That was bad. I told them ‘thank you’ and I shook their hand.”
The Nettles’ house on Tumbleweed – an insured Habitat for Humanity home – was eventually razed. The Nettles family is relocating to Sundown Trail, down the street from the Flores home.
The Flores family and Donahoo agreed that the survival of Manney and the others – and the eventual response of volunteers to make over their home – were blessings from God.
The majority of the homes in the most devastated area – Rancho Brazos – were Habitat for Humanity structures, all of which were insured.
The Flores family, however – headed by Malonie, a 37-year-old single mom – had no immediate resource to repair their damaged home so they could have a place to live. Since the tornado, they have been graciously allowed to live at the home of a friend. That situation will finally come to an end in a few weeks, once all of the finishing touches in their home are complete.
Last weekend volunteers made a huge “push” to get many of the major projects such as the ceilings done. The efforts of Daffan Mechanical employees were coordinated by Tom Peregrino, a co-owner of that local heating and air-conditioning company.
Others also came together to supply manpower and various items needed for the home. The Granbury Church of Christ Christian Service Center and other sources supplied furniture and appliances.
That part of the story will be told in a future Hood County News article after the Flores family gets moved in, which should be in a few weeks.
“God has just put one thing after another in place,” Donahoo said. “It’s just all coming together where they’re going to be okay.”
The winds from the F4 tornado didn’t destroy the two-bedroom wood-frame home where the Flores family lived, in the 3800 block of Sundown Trail, but significant repairs were needed. Most of the shingles were blown away, as was part of the roof. All of the windows were broken and debris was strewn inside.
Without Donahoo going to bat for the family – quietly asking members of the community to help Manney and his family – they may have been overlooked in the aftermath of one of the worst disasters in Hood County history.
“They never asked for one thing to be done,” said Donahoo.
Manney had been struggling in school and even skipped a few days and got kicked off the eighth grade football team. But Donahoo was there to help steer him back on a path toward success. They had actually met when Manney was attending Acton Elementary School, but they weren’t reunited until last year.
Donahoo took him under her wing to the point that Manney joked, “That’s my daytime momma. She’s been awesome.”
He began to listen to her advice – in the form of what he called “lectures” – as he turned things around.
“I was a library aide. Honestly, if she wasn’t there I’d probably be in more trouble than I was in,” Manney said. “Anything I did, she knew how I felt. I knew I could trust her, tell her my feelings, and I was safe with her.”
Malonie called Donahoo her “guardian angel.
“She’s been really amazing with Manuel,” Malonie said of Donahoo. “She’s steered him in the right direction.”
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