As Hurricane Irma barrels through the Caribbean and onwards to the Southeastern U.S., the relief effort is still underway in Texas after hurricane Harvey devastated Houston. A former Anchor Point resident, who now lives on the southwest corner of the city, spent three days responding to the disaster. Now that the waters have receded, he doesn’t want Alaskans and the rest of the country to forget about the mountain of work left to do.
Chase McKinney grew up in Anchor Point and graduated from Homer High School. He left Alaska to go to college and eventually settled in Houston, where he also brought his love for the outdoors.
McKinney and his friend Israel Lopez recently started an outdoors enthusiast group called Madmen Xtreme, aimed at sharing their passion through videos online.
“We’ve been making these videos, we’ve been going outdoors, we’ve been fishing, we’ve been camping, really just to show people how easy it is,” McKinney explained. “We never thought we were going to get out and save lives when we started it.”
McKinney said when Harvey hit Houston little under two weeks ago, he waited it out for about two days. The Sunday morning after the storm hit, he said his home in a southwestern suburb got by mostly unscathed.
“I wasn’t affected by the flood at all. I’d already been paid forward. So, I just thought I needed to go out and help the people that were in a little more dire straits than I was,” McKinney said. “That’s when I called Israel and I said, ‘Hey, let’s get the boat, let’s get out.’”
After a few hours of driving, going up and down streets just trying to find which roads were passable, both Lopez and McKinney got to their boat and started motoring through neighborhoods.
McKinney said he was blown away by the community’s response.
“It was all organized by civilians. Civilians organized the boats, civilians organized the checkpoints, civilians organized the shuttles. Civilians organized where people were going to go in the shelters,” he noted. “It was all done Monday and Tuesday by a gigantic civilian presence.”
Over three days, they pulled about 120 people from their homes all while filming their efforts on a GoPro camera. McKinney uploaded those videos to his Facebook, and people back home in Alaska started asking how they could help. Soon, a crowdsourcing account was set up for donations through GoFundMe.
After about a week of fundraising, they’re about $500 shy of their $3,000 goal. McKinney said all of the funds raised have gone directly towards supplies.
“To the families that need goods or wares or whatever they need, cleaning supplies,” McKinney said of the supplies they’ve purchased with donations. “We’re going to the store and we’re buying those things, and we’re hand delivering that to the people who need it.”
Both McKinney and Lopez say they will continue delivering those supplies and helping Texans put their lives back together so long as the funds keep rolling in.