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Helping hands after Harvey: Community offers resources, aid for Texas

Published: Thursday, August 31, 2017 @ 11:42 AM
Updated: Thursday, August 31, 2017 @ 6:17 PM
By: Chris Stewart - Staff Writer

In the days after Harvey spilled destruction over a broad swath of Texas, Ohioans quickly mobilized to help residents there recover from the storm by donating money, bottled water and supplies and by putting themselves squarely in the disaster zone.

Three area family members are among eight medics and EMTs from an Eaton-based ambulance company in Houston responding to emergencies after Hurricane Harvey.

Since arriving Sunday, MedPro part owner Ernie Hatmaker said the crews have treated injuries and illnesses inside emergency shelters as well as supported evacuation efforts in the event an evacuee needed immediate treatment or an emergency worker sustained injury.

HELP: How you can assist the victims of Hurricane Harvey

Hatmaker of Eaton is joined on the deployment by his son, Nathan Hatmaker, who became an EMT just months ago. Also on the trip is Hatmaker’s brother, Patrick Caylor of New Carlisle, another a part owner of the company.

The medics and EMTs are “technically on call all the time,” however the Federal Emergency Management Agency coordinators are ensuring rest time for the responders, Hatmaker said.

When needed, the company’s four ambulances join others from across the country on the “ready line” outside NRG Stadium, where the Houston Texans play football. They are sleeping on cots in one of the center’s exhibition halls.

Hatmaker has lost count of how many times they’ve been dispatched.

“They all start running together,” he said.

RELATED: Task force moves to next phase of rescue in Houston

The company contracts with FEMA to respond to crisis when needed. This is the sixth deployment for Hatmaker and the first for his son.

“I think if we had a problem in our area we’d want the help coming,” Hatmaker said. “You help out with the expectation that at some point in time you may need it back.”

Hurricane Harvey made landfall Friday night, pounding the Texas coast before bringing days of heavy rainfall to the Houston area and causing catastrophic flooding.

Messages on bottles

Those from southwest Ohio donating water are also sending words of hope to Texans along with the bottles.

Just a few of the messages written on the packaging and pallets bound to those without water: Ohio sends love, We are thinking of Texas, Ohio is praying 4 Houston, and You R strong Texas.

Bottled water packaged in cases is still being collected this week at The Foodbank and Sinclair Community College.

Michelle Riley, CEO of The Foodbank, said donations through Thursday are close to filling a third semi trailer. The first two deliveries directed by Matthew 25: Ministries should pull out of The Foodbank’s Dayton warehouse next week, while Feeding America will handle logistics of the third.

The Foodbank will be closed for the Labor Day holiday on Monday, but Riley said cases of water can still be dropped off today and Tuesday through Thursday next week.

RELATED: Harvey: Bottled water donations being collected in Miami Valley

“People are coming by with a case, some people are coming by with a half of skid. People are pulling up with trucks,” she said. “The Miami Valley is always very generous to our community, but to see such a response to this national crisis is wonderful.”

Doing what needs done

Sue Smith has been running errands – a lot – since the American Red Cross volunteer arrived Monday in Austin, Texas.

“I’m running whatever needs to be run. Picking up people, picking up supplies,” said Smith of Washington Twp. “Whatever needs to be delivered.”

Smith is working out of the Austin Convention Center as the Red Cross prepares to house up to 2,500 Harvey evacuees there from points east. The state has asked Austin to take up to 7,000 displaced by the storm.

While the mega-shelter at the convention center has yet to take in evacuees, the facility is full of activity because it’s the main point of entry for volunteers deployed to the state due to airport shutdowns in Houston, Smith said.

“There’s just a huge crew of people here,” she said. “It’s just amazing the amount who volunteer to give up a couple weeks of their life to come here and help other people.”

The Dayton-Area Chapter where Smith is based announced Thursday a $50,000 donation from the charitable arm of Fuyao Global and Fuyao founder Cho Tak Wong.

“We’re going to be sending it right to Harvey to take care of all of the disaster relief issues … getting volunteers to the area to opening up shelters and providing safety and water and food and all those needs,” said Cory Paul, the Dayton chapter’s executive director.

35 tons of supplies so far

Also on Thursday, Ohio Task Force 1 continued search operations in southeast Houston. The Kettering-based urban search and rescue team has been based out of a staging area at Katy High School.

RELATED: Harvey flooding overtakes Cedarville grad’s Houston-area home

A team of 49 people left early one week ago with six boats and by Wednesday afternoon had rescued nearly 200 people. The group’s canine search teams could become more active in next few days, according to the team’s spokesman.

Two C-17 Globemaster III cargo jets based at Wright-Patterson hauled troops, food and equipment from bases throughout the United States to Texas on Wednesday, according to Lt. Col. Steven R. Shrader, deputy operations group commander at the 445th Airlift Wing.

Wright-Patt crews have delivered more than 35 ton of supplies thus far, he said.

“At the end of the week last week when we saw the devastation going on, people were asking ‘When am I needed to help?’ ” he said.

Staff Writers Barrie Barber, Tom Gnau and Lisa Powell contributed to this report.