State

Kentucky priest grew up in town hit by Harvey. Tuesday, lunch there was on him.

Rev. Jim Sichko
Rev. Jim Sichko gkocher1@herald-leader.com

A Lexington priest says he dipped into his savings Tuesday to buy hot meals for about 200 people feeling the effects of Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

Rev. Jim Sichko, who is now based in the Catholic Diocese of Lexington, moved to Orange, Texas, when he was 4 and grew up there. When he learned that the city of about 19,000 was suffering from power outages and flooding from the storm, he decided he needed to do something.

“It’s nothing compared to Houston, but still, grocery stores are shutting down, most of the restaurants are closed,,” Sichko said. “I knew this restaurant would be open, so I called this morning out of the blue and asked to have them give hot meals for an hour.”

Spanky’s Bar and Grill, a local hangout on the “main drag” of Orange, agreed to step up, Sichko said. From 11 a.m. to noon, they served meals to about 200 and eventually ran out of food. Sichko’s bill ended up reaching $1,756.

Sichko said he knew there were first responders, people without power and people struggling financially who could use a hot meal while Harvey’s rains continued. Orange is on track for more flooding as Harvey moves east toward Louisiana, according to the National Weather Service.

Sichko was initially concerned about people coming out in the elements to get to Spanky’s Bar and Grill, but people who made it out told him that the weather cooperated. After the short respite, rains resumed about 15 minutes after noon, Sichko said.

There was still a line out the door when the window for free meals closed at noon.

“I wish I had more financial resources to continue, but I could only do an hour,” Sichko said.

Spanky’s Bar and Grill was one of very few sit-down restaurants in the area to remain open on Tuesday, Bailey Newton said. Newton works at the restaurant, which is owned by her uncle Mike LeMoine and his son Jake.

The restaurant has made it a point to stay open in past storms as well, feeding first responders during previous hurricanes Ike and Rita. While Newton spoke on the phone with the Herald-Leader on Tuesday, Jake LeMoine was out in his truck picking up two waitresses and a bartender who were trapped by the unpredictable flood waters.

In the midst of feeding 200 people free meals Tuesday, Spanky’s Bar and Grill was also preparing about 150 orders for energy workers in the area who are trying to restore power.

“We just had a great turnout,” Newton said. “It was overwhelming, but it was great.”

The turnout was so large that the restaurant had to close its kitchen about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday so they could catch up in time to open for dinner, Newton said. While they prepare, the city of Orange was given a notice for “voluntary evacuations.”

For anyone interested in contributing to people affected by Harvey, Sichko recommends contacting the Catholic Charities of Galveston or the Houston Humane Society. He also suggests mailing donated items rather than driving them to the Houston area, even though in many cases shipping has been delayed.

“It’s important as people that you never forget where you came from,” Sichko said. “By no means am I a millionaire, but you do what you can for your people. I’d do the same for Lexington or Richmond.”

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