Issue: Hurricane Harvey hits the Gulf Coast, causing millions of dollars in damage.
Local impact: Runnels County volunteers rally and travel to the coast to help hurricane victims.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey that slammed the Gulf Coast the last week of August, Runnels County residents joined others statewide to lend a hand and help with rescue efforts and to bring supplies to the victims along the Gulf Coast.

Rowena resident Russell Byler led a team from Runnels County and beyond who took water and supplies along with three boats to help in rescue efforts down to the Houston area.

Byler gathered with volunteers from Runnels County and folks from around the area like San Angelo, Lampasas, Ballinger, Austin and Fort Worth. Byler’s crew made about 41 rescues until they left last Thursday.

Byler and crew reported via social media several times a day and while there, they were getting direction from folks who were working social media to point them in the direction of those who needed to be rescued or just needed help.

He headed back to Beaumont on Tuesday and delivered a pallet of water.

Byler said the experience was one he will never forget.

“I am glad others decided to go,” Byler said.

Paul Minzenmayer, of Ballinger accompanied Byler on the trip and said the devastation was unbelievable and he was glad they could perform the rescues.

“The water came up so fast,” Minzenmayer said. “We rescued five children from one house - it was incredible.”

Early Sunday, another crew which included Jason Halfmann of San Angelo and some of his friends and family members from Ballinger including Kim Halfman and Bryan and Abbey Halfmann headed to Port Arthur with a load donated meat and they have been cooking for anyone that is hungry.

“We have been serving anywhere from 300-500 people every meal,” Jason Halfmann said. “We just wanted to come down here and make sure they got a hot meal.”

Meanwhile, others in Runnels County have stepped up to take donations.

The students from the Success Now classes in Winters ISD collected toiletries, hygiene products and water for the flood victims and it was delivered last week.

“It was a good character building project for them and it helpt others out,” said Deb Pritchard and English and communications teacher for WISD.

In Ballinger, FCCLA students have started a collection drive. Sponsor Julie Halfmann said the students will be collecting hygiene products for several months. There will be donation boxes around town as well as boxes at the pep rallies at home football games for community members to donate items.

Items are also being accepted at Samaritan House at 109 East Dale Street in Winters. Director Barbara Jones said they will be collecting new washcloths, towels and hygiene products.

Monetary donations are being accepted by the newly reformed Salvation Army in Winters. Pastor Al Brakke of St. John’s Lutheran Church is heading up that effort. He can be reached at 605-521-2946.

Donations are also being collected at Iron Eagle Welding at 1109 Hutchings and at First United Methodist Church at 1501 N Broadway in Ballinger. Items needed are clothing items, toiletry items, diapers, baby formula, fuel cans and fuel, water and canned goods.