CHICAGO — As the nation’s fourth largest city deals with catastrophic flooding, several people in the area are offering a helping hand.
Chicago area relief workers and other volunteers are heading to the disaster zone Monday night.
About a dozen volunteers from the Chicago Red Cross are helping in Texas already and another volunteer is about to leave his wife and two small children for up to a month because he says the flood victims need help.
“It’s something that has to be done and somebody has to do it,” Eddie Jaramillo said.
Jaramillo sounds every bit like the 11-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps he is, and he’s getting ready to leave for his sixth volunteer mission for the Red Cross knowing that in this disaster he’ll be one of the first in and one of the last out.
“It’s a lot worse than anything I’ve been to, so I try not to think about it, once we get there just do our jobs and go with it,” Jaramillo said.
The military man and paramedic possesses the combination of experience and skills needed in this historic flood. He’s one of a dozen volunteers from Chicago responding to the natural disaster and humanitarian crisis in the Gulf Coast
“This is one of the most significant disasters Texas will ever see and one of the most significant disasters – we’re being told – that the united states may ever see,” Celena Roldan, Red Cross of Chicago CEO, said.
Roldan will be volunteering in Texas in two weeks and said there will be a steady stream of volunteers from Chicago going to Texas over the next few months.
“People who are choosing to go in when everyone else is coming out. They’re signing up to help people because they know what it means to see people on the worst day of their lives,” Roldan said.
At the Chicago Salvation Army, leaders received a formal request from Texas emergency officials Monday asking for help
“We’ve just been informed that we’re going to have our personnel start going down. On Wednesday, we’ll be sending five individuals that have been trained to volunteer their time and go and be of service,” Col. Charley Smith, Salvation Army Metropolitan Division Commander, said.
Volunteers will be offering basic supplies like food and water, offering shelter and counseling as victims deal with displacement and the anxiety that comes with it.
“The Salvation Army prides themselves on being there from start to finish, so whatever the need will be from now until that time, we will be on site,” Smith said.
It’s difficult and draining work, but for volunteers like Jaramillo, the reward is in serving others.
“It’s all about helping. It really is. Helping people and being able to make their day a little bit easier and a little bit better. That’s really what it’s all about,” he said.
The Red Cross is the largest humanitarian organization in the world –- but it relies on volunteers and donations.
THOUSANDS RESCUED IN HOUSTON, MORE AWAIT HELP
More than 3,000 people are now sleeping at the Houston convention center due to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Thousands more are still waiting to be rescued.
The latest reports show six people are dead and the rain just keeps coming as people struggle to get to dry ground.
For many Texan families, Hurricane Harvey wasn’t supposed to be this bad.
“We rode out last year’s and that was okay but this year`s was more than we could imagine,” one resident said.
“The first night of Harvey a lot of us were thinking this wasn`t bad. It’s not really raining,” Chase Owens, a Houston resident, said. “It’s crazy how fast things can change.”
Many say they did not evacuate because they didn`t think they would be in the eye of the storm.
“My nerves are fried. They’re absolutely fried. Talking to people makes it feel a little more sane, but yeah. Still have animals back there. This little one I had to get out. So yeah very nervous for all my neighbors,” a flood victim said.
For some Houston residents the storm didn’t hit until Sunday morning.
“We got up on the roof and took pictures up on the roof and looked as far as we could see and it was water as far as we could see which was really scary not knowing how far away we were from safety.” Madison Sewell, rescued in Houston, said.
“We had furniture floating in the house,” Leila Sarmecanic, rescued in Houston.
They are now safe and dry thanks to a neighbor with a fishing boat.
“He kept driving his boat back and forth picking up more people. And of course we didn’t know there was dry land three blocks away,” Sewell said.
Houston native Chase Owens took drone video of downtown Houston on Sunday to send to his mom in Dallas.
“Seeing the Hard Rock guitar just spinning around you know, lights, traffic lights that are just barely above water, it’s hard to fathom that this is real,” he said.
Owens said he made it through Hurricane Ike. Hurricane Harvey, though, he says, has been far worse.
“I mean it’s just mind-blowing. We travel these streets every day and now to realize the only way you can get through them is with a boat, I mean. It`s mind-blowing to think about,” he said.
“They’re saying the hurricane could very well come back right at Houston so we`re going to keep hunkering down,” Sarmecanic said.
Many roads are still impassable. Schools are closed. Prisons have been evacuated. President Trump is expected to travel to Texas on Tuesday.