- Photos: Packing time for hurricane survivor donations
- Packing up Hurricane Harvey relief donations
- Another round of local hurricane donations leaves Sunday from Fort Wayne for Texas
- Fort Wayne-based I&M sending more crews for hurricane aid
- Former Fort Wayne residents bracing for or evacuating from Hurricane Irma
From serving BBQ and sending food and cleaning supplies to volunteering in storm shelters and bringing dogs here to make room at Houston-area animal shelters, people and organizations in Fort Wayne have stepped up to help Texans hard hit by Hurricane Harvey.
SERVING UP BBQ
Chris Wilson and his son, Joey, of Lucille's Bar-B-Que at 9011 Lima Road drove out of town Tuesday with a smoker and supplies to begin feeding people in the Houston area as part of Operation BBQ Relief (OBR), said son Chris Wilson Jr., who stayed behind temporarily to help run the family's restaurant.
OBR organizes barbecue restaurants and competition teams to serve food in disaster areas, the younger Chris Wilson said. His father and brother were sent to a U.S. Coast Guard base in the Houston area for now, but they expect within the next couple of days to move to the convention center in Houston, which has become a huge shelter for flooding victims.
"They started smokin' (meat) as soon as they got there," he said of their arrival at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Coast Guard base.
The Wilsons and a second barbecue team are feeding Coast Guard personnel, volunteers and people being brought to the base after being rescued from flooded areas, said Chris Wilson Jr., who plans to leave Wednesday to join his father and brother in Houston. They serve lunch and dinner, and everyone gets meat, a vegetable, fruit, bread and water. The meals are free.
Food, propane, wood, coolers and other supplies are being donated, he said. He's also working to secure the donation of a truckload of paper products and items such as plastic silverware that he can take down when he goes next week.
OBR estimates barbecue vendors volunteering for Houston flood relief will serve at least 450,000 meals before heading home, said Wilson, whose family also participated in OBR relief efforts a year ago after flooding in Hammond, La. He and his father and brother may rotate in and out of the relief work in Houston, he said, but they expect to be there for awhile.
"We're there as long as they need us," he said.
After seeing the damage and flooding in Houston, one of Ashley Baxter's friends wanted to do something to help, so she asked Baxter to assist with planning it.
Baxter, the events manager at the Embassy Theatre, jumped on Facebook and asked if any of her connections would be interested in serving as drop-off sites for goods to be sent to hurricane victims. She quickly had eight sites where people can drop off personal hygiene items and "just add water" foods now through Sept. 15.
"The main thing about this kind of stuff is most people want to help but they don't know how," said Baxter, who helped another friend organize a similar drive last year for victims of the fires around Gatlinburg, Tenn.
After the local Hurricane Harvey collection drive ends Sept. 15, Baxter and friends will organize the donated items into "care kits" packed in 1-gallon plastic zip-close bags, she said. The items will driven by truck Sept. 17 to a Texas Roadhouse restaurant in the Houston area, where people affected by the hurricane and flooding can come to pick them up.
The general manager of the Texas Roadhouse here at 710 W. Washington Center Road, which is one of the local drop-off sites, made the connection with the Texas Roadhouse in the Houston area, she said.
Baxter said the local supplies will arrive in time to replenish early donations received by people displaced by the storm.
"The need is not going away anytime soon," she added.
SERVING IN SHELTERS
The Northeast Indiana chapter of the American Red Cross has eight volunteers assisting at housing shelters in the Houston area, and its Emergency Response Vehicle also drove to Houston to serve food, said Katherine Mac Aulay, local chapter executive director.
The shelter volunteers are working 12-hour shifts at three smaller shelters, Mac Aulay said. They ensure people staying at the shelters get three meals a day and keep track of who comes and goes from the shelter.
One of the volunteers is a mental health specialist, so she will try to help people with the emotional trauma they have experienced, Mac Aulay said.
The mental health specialist has to return home in two weeks, but the other shelter volunteers will stay for three weeks, she said.
Volunteers in the Emergency Response Vehicle were serving food to emergency workers as of Wednesday, but they will begin providing food for families as Houston residents return to their homes, Mac Aulay said.
The Red Cross welcomes more volunteers, she said. Potential volunteers can sign up at www.redcross.org and must go through a police background check before beginning service.
The Red Cross especially needs people licensed to work in providing health services and mental health care, Mac Aulay said. But the organization can find volunteer roles for people doing other types of work.
Money donated to the local Red Cross will be used to buy supplies for displaced residents at businesses in the Houston area to jump-start the economy there, she said.
Flooding not only chased thousands of people from their homes, it also displaced their pets and the many stray dogs and cats in Houston.
To make room for them at animal shelters close to Houston, members of the grassroots animal organization G.R.R.O.W.L. (Grassroots Rescue Operated With Love) are driving down to Abilene, Texas, to bring dogs in a shelter there back to northeast Indiana so they can be adopted here, said Sarah Schuessler, G.R.R.O.W.L.'s Fort Wayne operator. Abilene is about 300 miles northwest of Houston.
One truck left Fort Wayne for Abilene on Thursday morning carrying human medical supplies and donations for dogs, Schuessler said. It is scheduled to return Sept. 6 with 22 dogs.
G.R.R.O.W.L. also plans to send three more trucks or cargo vans to Abilene between now and mid-September to pick up dogs, she said. All of the dogs being brought here are dogs available for adoption; none are dogs separated from their owners by Hurricane Harvey.
G.R.R.O.W.L. members are searching for area animal shelters and rescue groups to take the dogs when they first arrive, Schuessler said. All of the dogs will have been spayed or neutered, vaccinated and evaluated for socializing well with people.
G.R.R.O.W.L. already was working with animal shelters in the Houston area before Hurricane Harvey, she said. They had been touched emotionally by a Facebook video posted by a woman in Houston who regularly feeds stray dogs there, and the group here wanted to help. They have brought about 150 dogs to the Fort Wayne area in the past year, Schuessler added.
Ways to help
You can learn more about local Hurricane Harvey relief efforts or donate to help in the following ways:
* Lucille's Bar-B-Que team: Check for updates on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lucillesftwayne.
* American Red Cross: Make monetary donations by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767); go to www.redcross.org; text Harvey to 90999 to make a $10 donation on your cell phone bill; or drop off cash or check at the Northeast Indiana chapter office, 1212 E. California Road.
* G.R.R.O.W.L.: To donate money, go to petjamboree.org. Flea medicine and other dog supplies can be dropped off locally at Pampered Pets, 2013 W. Cook Road, and Animal House Play and Style, 5902 Homestead Road.
* Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana: As reported previously, the organization will accept donations of ready-to-eat food, bottled water and cleaning supplies 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Fridays at its main entrance, 999 E. Tillman Road. To donate money by secure PayPal, go to www.communityharvest.org/harvey.
* Hurricane Harvey Donation Drive: Now through Sept. 15
Needed items are gas cards, Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), travel size shampoo and conditioner, toothbrushes, toothpaste, wet wipes, hair comb or brush, "just add water" foods, such as macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, oatmeal and instant coffee, feminine hygiene products, and cards of sympathy and support.
Drop-off locations are:
— Cook's Roadside Towing and Recovery, 2215 Meyer Road (call 1-260-333-1221 to arrange delivery time)
— Grace Computers and Electronics, 1920 Bluffton Road
— Sprint, 4832 Illinois Road
— Kay Jewelers, 4602 Illinois Road
— Sassie Cakes, 1014 Broadway
— Texas Roadhouse, 710 W. Washington Center Road
— Vorderman Volkswagen, 5811 Cross Creek Blvd.
— Metea County Park Nature Center, 8401 Union Chapel Road
* Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend: Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades joined Catholic bishops around the country in directing that a special Hurricane Harvey monetary collection take place at Masses Sept. 16-17 in the diocese. The funds collected will go to support Catholic Charities USA's aid to hurricane victims and to fund providing pastoral care and rebuilding support to dioceses impacted by the storm.