West Orange reaches out to city with same name in Texas

WEST ORANGE, NJ — More than 1,500 miles south of West Orange, N.J., lies a town in another state with the same name. West Orange, Texas, which is approximately a two-hour drive east of Houston, was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 25, and now Mayor Robert Parisi is leading a fundraising effort for the Texas town to help its residents get back on their feet after the storm.

Aside from the name, the two towns have many differences. New Jersey’s West Orange has a population of 47,249 in comparison to Texas’ 3,456. The smaller Texas town has an area of 3.5 square miles, which could fit inside the New Jersey’s 12.17 square miles almost four times. Parisi said he wants to send some goodwill to Texas to help with the storm cleanup.

“I’m not familiar with the area,” Parisi told the West Orange Chronicle in a phone interview on Sept. 21. “Someone saw on Facebook and told me that there’s a West Orange in Texas, so I reached out and asked how we could help.”

Parisi has spoken to Roy McDonald, the mayor of West Orange, Texas, several times on the phone since the hurricane hit.

“It’s a small town and they got walloped by it,” Parisi said about the Texas town. “We’ve been collecting donations. When these things happen, people need the money and the support to get going again. It’s really more about the goodwill and the help that we can give.”

Forty percent of the residents of West Orange, Texas, were affected by the flooding Harvey brought.

“Some only an inch, but by-and-large 3 or more feet,” McDonald said of the water damage in a Sept. 27 email to the Chronicle. “Many homes were in the flood-prone zone and will not be able to be replaced. Other elderly residents are just moving on to live near family in another location. We will ultimately lose our tax base and have vacant land to maintain after we demolish the abandoned structures.”

Harvey made landfall three times — twice in Texas and once in Louisiana. West Orange, Texas, was in the path of the third landfall, according to McDonald.

“During the storm around 100 high-water rescues had to be performed by our police department with special military type vehicles, two of which have been deemed non-useable because of the storm,” he said.

Recovery has been slow while the town waits for FEMA and insurance companies to remove debris. The hardest hit areas were evacuated and, McDonald said, many such residents have still not returned.

After debris has been removed, McDonald said that temporary housing is the Texas town’s biggest need. Transportation is also needed, as the storm damaged many cars and trucks.

“We want to help the people who can’t get home and still need supplies,” Parisi said. “They still need those everyday supplies that you might not even think of, and that’s what we can help with.”

Parisi is also hoping to organize a fundraiser with the West Orange School District in order to send money to Texas for hurricane relief.

“We so appreciate him being proactive,” McDonald said about Parisi’s fundraising efforts. “Reading your website and learning of your caring spirit has helped our citizens to have a more positive outlook; we all know that these types of disasters are quite expensive to everyone.”

Residents who wish to donate to Hurricane Harvey relief for West Orange, Texas, can mail a check made out to the Mayor’s Sunshine Fund with the memo “Hurricane Harvey Relief,” to: Town Hall, 66 Main St., West Orange.