Volunteers from West Michigan heading to Texas to help with Hurricane Harvey relief

Local American Red Cross volunteers are on their way to Texas, helping the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Local American Red Cross volunteers are on their way to Texas, helping the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Thirty-three Michigan volunteers are making the trip with food and supplies, including seven from the Kalamazoo area.

A program coordinator in Kalamazoo said requests for volunteers have been made to Red Cross chapters in every single state across the country.

It's all hands on deck to help the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by this super-storm.

When Red Cross volunteer John Gagen arrives in Texas, it won't be his first experience in a disaster zone.

“It’s about 17th one,” Gagen said. “The last one I was at was [Hurricane] Matthew, then they run me up the coast to Alabama and Mississippi, then I came home.”

The Battle Creek resident and Vietnam War veteran is teaming up with fellow Red Cross volunteer Lynn Flegel.

“I feel a lot more confident after meeting him than when I drove up here,” Flegel laughed.

The two left Kalamazoo this morning, heading to Houston in a Red Cross emergency response vehicle.

“We slide them down, they open it up and hand the food down to the people, and we give a cup of coffee, a cup of water,” Gagen said.

Gagen and Flagel are driving one of seven emergency response vehicles Red Cross volunteers in Michigan are taking to Texas. They will join others including a Berrien County couple.

“They will be going through the neighborhoods with food,” Nancy Kowalski, a Red Cross volunteer, said. “They will be dropping food off at the shelters.”

The trucks the volunteers are taking to Texas carry enough food and supplies to support around 20,000 people.

“99% of the people are happy to see you,” Kowalski said. “They give you a hug or handshake, and that's like handing me a $100 bill when they do that. It just makes you feel good that you're actually here to do something.”

The volunteer duo both admit getting to the disaster zone might be a challenge, but one that's well worth it.

“The bigger the challenge, the more of an adventure,” Flegel said. “As long as you come out of it okay, and I plan to.”

If you're interested in helping, the red cross said donating money is the most effective way. You can donate to help those affected by the hurricane here.

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