Stories from Harvey: East Tennesseans volunteer after the storm

Multiple East Tennessee groups are in the Houston area, helping in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

KNOXVILLE - When disaster struck in Texas, East Tennesseans were there to help. 

From collecting donations to volunteering to rescuing people with boats to helping provide comfort, Tennessee offered a helping hand to those most affected by Hurricane Harvey. 

"The damage, honestly, it's immeasurable," said Jason Hopson, who traveled to Texas to help clear animals from overcrowded shelters. "To see a home underwater on television is bad. When you see it in real life, it really strikes a chord." 

Hopson and his wife run Bright Hope Animal Rescue in Greene County. When they saw the pictures of the devastation, they knew they had to help. They transported more than 70 dogs away from a shelter in Beaumont, Texas to help make room for animals that were lost during the storm. 

"It was about a 12-hour turnaround that the shelter started filling its spaces again," said Hopson. "It was way worse than I thought we would see."

The Animal Rescue Corps transported 112 dogs and 44 cats to different parts of the country so that animals lost during Harvey could be reunited with their owners in Texas. 

The Knoxville Fire Department sent swift water rescue teams to Texas to help with water rescues. They've been busy working with other agencies since they arrived last week. 

"We've probably evacuated somewhere around 20 people," said Mark Lane, a Knoxville firefighter volunteering in Texas. "We encountered water anywhere from ankle deep to about 10 feet of water."

BIll Van Dyke, a volunteer with the American Red Cross of East Tennessee, is stationed in Louisiana and is helping run a shelter set up for evacuees. Van Dyke is visually impaired and travels to disaster zones with his guide dog, Alton. 

"We try to keep their spirits up and we try to help them cope with their individual situation," Van Dyke said. "I tell them we're going to take care of you the best we can. If they have any disabilities, I handle that part of it."

Jewel, a comfort dog from Loudon, is also helping in Texas.

She has spent her time in shelters and churches, meeting with evacuees and first responders to help comfort them. 

The American Red Cross and the Animal Rescue Corps are most in need of financial donations to continue their work. 

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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