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Red Cross volunteers from around the country are traveling to Texas to provide relief


Volunteers from all across the United States are joining ranks with the Red Cross and heading to Texas to provide relief for the people impacted by Hurricane Harvey, which is now a tropical storm.

Harvey came ashore as a Category 4 storm, leaving thousands of people living in shelters. The heavy flooding and 130 mph winds caused extensive property damage and caused some families to lose everything.

Below is a small sampling of the local relief efforts underway.

The American Red Cross is seeking financial donations and other assistance to help provide disaster relief.

To contribute, the Red Cross can be reached online or by calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word HARVEY to 90999.

Hundreds of volunteers have been deployed to Southeast Texas after a direct hit from Hurricane Harvey, and now fears of catastrophic flooding.

On Saturday, volunteers with the American Red Cross National Capital Region spent the day getting Emergency Response Vehicles ready to head south and help with the massive relief effort.

"At this point, we've already sheltered almost 2,000 people in shelters down there," said Nell Nutaitis, director of development for the National Capital Region.

Rebecca Callahan, from Northeast Washington, got the call late Friday night. She packed up and boarded a plane to Houston Saturday afternoon to help manage a shelter.

"No matter how little sleep you get or how much extra work it is, somebody is always better off when you're finished, so that's why you do it," said Callahan, who has been deployed more than a half dozen times to help during a hurricane.

"This is going to be a long recovery. This storm is going to leave many areas uninhabitable and we will be there with everyone as long as we are needed," Nutaitis said.

The American Red Cross is sending 13 people from Wisconsin down to Texas to help those who are in the path of Hurricane Harvey.

The Red Cross has more than 17 shelters open right now in Texas and expects to support thousands of people.

Some of the Wisconsin volunteers left Friday morning, but the Hossmans, from Lodi, plan to fly out Saturday.

Curtis Hossman helps with the mental health side of things, and Bettie Hossman is a nurse.

"You never really know what you are going to come across," Curtis Hossman said. "You just kind of create a presence and provide as much support as you can, and help people deal with issues that come up and resolve problems that may occur."

Local American Red Cross volunteers have been deployed to Texas.

At least 20 to 25 are already there, and more are planning to head out by the middle of the week.

"Some of these folks lose everything that they worked for their entire lives," said Michael Dunn a volunteer for the Mountain area chapter. "Sometimes it's hard not to tear up when some little kid comes up to you and is just so happy to see you."

Local American Red Cross Chapter Executive Alli Trask said it isn't typical for Mountain volunteers to be deployed such a far distance. She said a total of 950 volunteers have been deployed from across the country. 4,000 should be there by the middle of next week. Anywhere from 10,000 to 12,000 will have helped by the end of the response.

Two Asheville-area volunteers will be driving the Disaster Relief Vehicle to Texas Sunday morning. It may be filled with supplies like cots, blankets, comfort kits and first aid kits.

"It will be used to access some of the more remote areas apart from the main feeding and sheltering sites," said Trask. "They are coming in from all across the country."

Two volunteers with the Central Midwest Georgia Red Cross are heading to Texas and Louisiana to help aid victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Robert Williams and Allen Cowart with the Central Midwest Georgia Red Cross traveled to affected areas said Red Cross spokesperson Connie Hensler.

Hensler said Williams is a specialist with Emergency Response Vehicle operation, and Cowart is a staffing specialist.

She said both will probably help in unique ways they're specially qualified for.

A team of volunteers from the East Central Bay Region of the Red Cross left for Texas on Saturday.

They'll be driving an emergency response vehicle south, and expect to help serve food when they get there.

The local volunteers expect to be in Texas for at least two weeks.

Volunteers from southwest Michigan are setting up shelters and managing all those supplies. They will be there in two-week cycles before being rotated out.

Jim and Nancy Kowalski, Red Cross volunteers, aren't being deployed for this trip but said it is essential for volunteers from across the country to help in this time of great need.

"This is affecting so many people down there, so many potential clients down there that the local chapters can't handle all of it,” Nancy said. “I mean, they're great and they do what they can, but you've got to realize people in the local chapters, a lot of those people are affected by the storm as well."

As the rain continues to fall in the south, volunteers in the New York Capital Region are rushing to help. A dozen Red Cross volunteers are ready to spend as much time as it takes to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Ten local volunteers have been deployed, and two are on standby

"It needs to be done, and I don't mind doing it," said Joe Sartoris. This is his second trip with the Red Cross for disaster relief - he flew down south not long ago, for Hurricane Matthew.

"This is the first major hurricane to hit landfall category four in over a decade,” Red Cross's Capital Region Chief Development Officer Kevin Coffey said. He says on Friday night, the Red Cross sheltered 1,400 people.

"This is going to be a very large response for Red Cross, the need for local financial donations and for local volunteers has never been more great,” Coffey said.

The volunteers we spoke with will plan on being there for two weeks - but say that could change.

"I’ll stay over as long as I’m needed,” Quesnel said.

Middle Tennessee volunteers packed their bags and hit the road to help Hurricane Harvey victims.

Registered Nurse Allie Pillow is on stand by to help in a Texas Emergency Room.

"I feel blessed to be able to help," Allie Pillow said.

Mary Lockett has been a Red Cross volunteer for more than 10 years.

"Just knowing that I can help someone is the biggest accomplishment that I can say," Lockett said.

Lockett and other volunteers are loading up one of several Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles ready to deploy to Texas.

"Even though we are prepared for a large event and a very large disaster, it's difficult sometimes to conceptualize how big of an event like that can be,” said David Kitchen, Red Cross Senior Disaster Program Manager.

Kitchen said mass care volunteers are the primary need right now.

“Having watched people suffer, having watched subdivisions in the city just about underwater, people lose everything," Kitchen said. "It's devastating. It's heartbreaking."

(Local reporters contributing to this story: Leah Linscheid / Fox47; Ryan Hughes / ABC7; Tanja Rekhi / WLOS; Madeline Ciak / WSMH; Christine Van Timmeren / WWMT; Lynzi DeLuccia / WRGB; Eric Mock / WGXA; Samantha Singer / WZTV)

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