Houstonians Helping East Coast Hurricane Victims

East Coast residents, who had to evacuate due to Hurricane Irene, are receiving lots of help from the Red Cross this week. At least one of those workers is a volunteer from right here in Houston. Bill Stamps spoke with her by phone as she tries to help get things back to normal over there.

Houston and Galveston residents know firsthand how much help the Red Cross can provide after a hurricane or other natural disaster. In the wake of Hurricane Ike, more than a thousand Red Cross volunteers were in this area helping in the relief effort.

Well the same thing is going on right now in New Jersey. That’s where Houston’s Harriet Halkyard is helping organize a shelter:

"To make sure that the drivers of the emergency response vehicles get up there with the food and staff and that we can do it. So I’m not serving food so to speak, but I’m making sure we get food in the right place, at the right time."

Halkyard has been a Red Cross volunteer for years and often travels to other states when there’s a need. She recently went to Alabama to help tornado victims. Some say people like her are society’s real heroes. But Halkyer believes lots of people would help out of they could.

"Everbody does something. There’s a load of people in Houston I know right now that just aren’t able to get away and do something, because they’re looking after children or they’re earning money to feed the family. So nobody is lucky enough like I am that I can go away and my husband will support me, so I can get away and do this."

Anyone can be a Red Cross volunteer but those with the most responsibility, like Halkyard, have taken training classes.

Denise Bishop is the communications director for the Greater Houston Area Red Cross. She says her volunteers come from all walks of life.

"Some of these people are retired, but a lot of thee people work full time and many of them, believe it or not, take vacation time to do this, which is pretty amazing."

So why do they do it? I asked Halkyard what makes her want to fly to another city and help out people she’s never met before and will probably never see again.

"I was in the gas station the other day and I needed change for a dollar and this guy game me the coins, but he wouldn’t accept my dollar. And I know that man had not as much money as I did overall, but he said, 'oh just pay it back somewhere.' In life you just pay back what you can all around in circles, you know. What you give, you get back."