After three trips to Southern Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Army veteran and Killeen resident Jim Everard has no plans to stop helping relief efforts any time soon, and is now planning a trip to Florida on Tuesday to help victims of Hurricane Irma.
However, his trips to the Houston and Beaumont areas has left his and his friends’ savings accounts nearly empty, and they are hoping for community donations to help in Florida as much as possible.
“Our biggest overhead is fuel costs,” Everard said. “When we go down, we are staying at warehouses, and we aren’t eating out; we are ordering off the dollar menus. We just need enough to get down there, help out and be able to get back home.”
Everard is planning the trip with fellow Army veterans Joshua Greves and Gene Simpson, both of whom have accompanied him to Southeast Texas at least once. Simpson, Greves and Greves’ girlfriend, Ashley Mickens, all went to down to the Beaumont area together for the first trip, and they said the devastation they saw was heartbreaking.
“It’s hard not to lose yourself seeing all this,” Greves said. “Knowing you have all this stuff at home and these people have lost everything, it is hard.”
Simpson said one of the major things the group did during the previous trips was donation supply runs, and said it is the main reason they are asking for community help as they prepare to travel to Florida.
“A big portion that we did was deliver what was there that people needed that they couldn’t get to themselves,” he said.
Everard and the others said most of the relief volunteers they spoke with said they had large amounts of certain types of donations, but were severely lacking in other areas.
“A volunteer at Living Waters Church in Bevil Oaks told us they had all these clothes that had been donated, but were missing some basic medical supplies like bandages and Neosporin,” Everard said. “So Josh and I finally found this pharmacy that had a lot of medical supplies, and I got to sweep an entire shelf off into a bag and ring it all up, and we went back and delivered it straight to the church.”
Everard said these types of donations are why they are raising money through a gofundme account rather than taking supplies with them. Donations of money to the gofundme account allows the trio to find out what rescue workers and victims need in the moment and then go out and get them.
“Another way that people can help is just ordering donations off of Amazon Prime and sending them directly to a church or a relief shelter where they are needed,” Everard said. “I made my Facebook public, and I am sharing church addresses and what they need on there, and people can just look there to find out how to donate.”
The three men said they were happy to help in whatever way they could, and were pleased with the community and volunteer response they have seen.
“I think everyone should help in whatever way they can, either by going down or by donating,” Simpson said.
The three men said they didn’t care if people knew what they were doing to help out, and only shared their efforts in order to help make more people aware of the need for assistance that exists in South Texas and Florida.
“Our reward was making sure someone got home safe,” Greves said. “We aren’t looking for recognition; we are just asking for help so we can keep helping others.”
Everard said the three men hope to be able to spend at least a week in Florida, helping however they are needed. The group’s gofundme page currently has $910 of its $5,000 goal.