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Valley residents head to Texas to help victims of Hurricane Harvey

Chey Tor chats with the rest of the group before heading out to Texas. (Photo by Lysandra Marquez/Cronkite News)

CHANDLER – The moon was still visible when close to a dozen Valley residents gathered at a gas station in Chandler. They were about to begin their long drive toward Houston, Texas, to deliver supplies and aid to the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Close to two weeks after the massive hurricane made landfall in southern Texas, the group headed out, divided among three vehicles, two of them trucks full of supplies. Drop-off locations for donations were set-up throughout the Valley days before their departure and they received toiletries, cleaning products and food which they will deliver to groups like Mormon Helping Hands and a local church.

Money was also raised, and the group will continue to raise funds through social media throughout their trip. Aside from distributing the donated goods, they also plan to spend close to four days cleaning up, repairing and helping in any way they can.

Chey Tor, a real estate title representative, was inspired to act when he read an article about Anheuser-Busch sending cans of water — instead of beer — to those affected by the hurricane.

“I thought, what can I do as a citizen to help my fellow American?” he said.

Shortly after, Tor contacted friend Jason Payne and they started sharing posts on Facebook to raise funds and collect supplies.

Payne, a roofing contractor in the Valley, said that not long after posting on social media he started finding anonymous donations on his doorstep

“Every night I would go to my home and there would be stuff on my front porch. It would not say from who, they didn’t try to get any recognition. It just said, ‘hey take this to Texas and tell everybody we love them from Arizona,’” he said.

Among those affected and displaced by Hurricane Harvey are also four-legged companions. Payne said he had received donations of pet food, toys and supplies from Animal Kingdom and Puppies in Love at Arizona Mills.

“We have all these dogs and other animals that are homeless as well, trying to find somewhere to live and someone they could go live with,” he said.

Some of the volunteers are going to miss work and even school to make the journey to Texas.

Eric Zimmerman, who had previously lived in Texas, brought four of his kids along to help.

“I’m taking off work and they’re taking off school and I thought I would give them that opportunity to go and help,” he said. “To see what being without really is. It’s tragic, and at the same time, we have truckloads to go and help. So at least we’re trying to bring a little bit of hope to them.”

For 15-year-old Mikelle Zimmerman, it is an opportunity to give back, but she isn’t entirely sure what to expect.

“I’ve been told some of the stuff like, oh it’s going to be kind of bad, but I think it’s gonna be some stuff that we might see as not the best. I know that we’re going down there to just help out and serve others, to try and make it better for some people,” she said.

Dylan Zimmerman, who is 14 years old, said he hopes to provide some sort of comfort to the victims.

“I just wanted to help, and I feel like everyone who went through Hurricane Harvey deserves help,” Zimmerman said. “They need to feel like they are loved.”

Realtor Nicole O’Reilly, stepped in at the last minute when someone else was unable to go on the aid trip. While she felt unsure about she will be encountering, she said she feels prepared to handle the situation and help in any way she can.

“I think just seeing the amount of destruction that is left behind, it broke my heart. In my business, we help people find homes and these are people are losing them. It just made me want to be a part of this,” she said.

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