Fort Worth couple spend anniversary readying help in hurricane relief efforts

Bera and Frank Calvert had planned to celebrate their 48th wedding anniversary Wednesday by going out for a nice Italian dinner.

Instead, the Fort Worth couple was in Austin, readying a Salvation Army mobile kitchen and preparing to be among the first responders sent to South Texas once Hurricane Alex made landfall.

"We had planned on going to Olive Garden, but if we have a sandwich, so what?" said Bera Calvert, 69.

"It's just another day to us," Frank Calvert, 70, said. "We're always together, and we have so much fun every day."

The Calverts have volunteered with the Salvation Army for years, responding to eight hurricanes and countless fires, tornadoes, floods and other natural disasters.

They already spent one wedding anniversary a few years ago volunteering. And they weren't about to abandon others in need Wednesday just to mark the day they exchanged vows in Amarillo in 1962.

"There are times, like when we helped with Rita, that you see people who lost everything. They don't even have food. Then they drive up, you hand them food, and they have tears [of appreciation] in their eyes," Bera Calvert said. "That's what keeps you going. With the help of God, we are able to help them and love doing it."

They waited Wednesday for word on when to head out and where to go. They knew that once the hurricane made landfall, they would wait until the gusts were down to 39 mph. Then they would be among the first responders sent to a designated site, likely in Harlingen or Brownsville.

There, they will set up the mobile kitchen to feed those in the task force, which includes public safety and health workers, relief agency officials and volunteer group leaders, until larger mobile kitchens are set up. When the other kitchens are up and running, likely within a couple of days, the Calverts will shift to helping those directly affected by the hurricane.

Bera Calvert said she and her husband just love helping others.

"Our kids have finally decided that if something happens to us while we are out doing this, then at least we died doing something that makes us happy," she said.

ANNA M. TINSLEY, 817-390-7610

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