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Dearborn County volunteers return home from Hurricane Harvey relief efforts

Posted at 8:03 PM, Sep 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-04 23:29:51-04

BRIGHT, Ind. -- A team of eight volunteers returned to Dearborn County Sunday after distributing thousands of donations from people around the Tri-State to Hurricane Harvey victims in Houston.

Flooding photographed from above by the Dearborn County volunteers (photo provided)

Glen Coolidge once called Houston home. He said when Hurricane Harvey hit, he couldn't sit back and watch. He and the other volunteers photographed what they came across in Texas.

"Life goes on normal for us, but our family and friends that we went to assist are starting the longest journey of our lives," Coolidge said.

When the team arrived, they found vehicles everywhere and homes under water. They worked with volunteer taskforce groups with a database of calls coming in. Other times, people would flag them down and point them in the direction of someone in need of help. 

Generators the volunteers brought to Houston helped power a nursing home that was taking in residents from other nursing homes, according to Coolidge. Supplies they brought went to three different shelters. Others will be distributed in the weeks to come.

The supplies were collected at Bright Christian Church in Lawrenceburg.

 

Bright Fire Chief Jason Eckhoff was also on the team.

"These folks, they are closing the door behind them, leaving their home with a bag of important documents and medications, things they need to survive for the immediate week, and they are closing the door behind them knowing it's not going to be the same when they come back," he said.

When the group arrived in Houston, they responded to call after call, according to Coolidge.

"We got a call as soon as we got down there about a 93-year-old elderly woman who was running out of oxygen because she didn't have electricity," Coolidge said. "We get down there and it's mass chaos."

Flooding photographed by the Dearborn County volunteers (photo provided)

One afternoon, they were on their way to deliver supplies when Coolidge said they came across an apartment building in a wooded area.

"There were 20 people who needed to be evacuated: elderly women, children, lots of animals," he said.

Once they arrived, Eckhoff said their training kicked in.

"All the classes you go to for these big disasters and things that you are like, 'I will never use this,' it all comes into play," he said.

One of the last calls the team went on was a couple without power or running water. The husband was an 80-something-year-old Marine veteran, Coolidge said. 

"So one of our crew guys was able to finagle their back well to a generator," he said. "We got to sit and chat and visit with these people and hear their story. 

Coolidge and Eckhoff said they spent a lot of time hearing victims' stories. Despite the devastation, people in Houston came together and, in a lot of cases, stayed positive.

"They understand that they aren't going to be able to survive, they aren't going to be able to make it, without locking arms," Coolidge said.

Eckhoff called the experience "life-changing."

"It makes you come back and think about a lot of things," he said. "A lot of problems that we face that we think are so major, they are not so major."

Bright Christian Church will continue accepting donations for the next several weeks. Coolidge said they will ship down all of the supplies collected. They're also accepting checks. 

"If help can continue to come, they would appreciate it," Eckhoff said.