Harvey volunteer keeps spirits up through laughter and hugs

Volunteers with the Austin Disaster Relief Network sort through donations for Harvey survivors (KXAN Photo)
Volunteers with the Austin Disaster Relief Network sort through donations for Harvey survivors (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin area volunteers continue to work non-stop to help to Harvey evacuees. We found one volunteer keeping all the others motivated through laughter.

It takes a lot of work to gather, sort and pack all the supplies either heading to Houston, or to flood survivors in Austin, according to Chris Reighley.  He said volunteers at the Austin Disaster Relief Network do that work with smiles on their faces. If you see how Chris interacts with them, it’s easy to know why.

He’s been volunteering for decades, and today is in charge of all the ADRN volunteers as the organization’s field operations manager. One of his biggest goals each day is to make sure the volunteers aren’t being worked into the ground. They can sometimes put in 10 to 12 hour days. Reighley gives volunteers energy through laughter, telling jokes and giving out plenty of hugs.

“This is a tiring business, but the thing we’ve got to focus in on is the end goal,” Reighley said.

“We’ve got boxes, we’ve got lots of stuff, but the stuff is just a means,” Reighley continued. “It’s the people who are going to get these boxes that’s important.”

Keeping things loose is important to Chris. He says it helps him deal with the stress of working 18 to 20 hours most days since Harvey hit. He says he’s found pure joy in his work.

“How can you not be happy when you’re helping other people,” he said. “When we’re picking up a box, we’re picking a box up with love knowing that box is going to get to somebody that’s lost everything.”

Bill Davis is ADRN’s distribution manager. He works fast, coordinating drivers and forklifts through a sea of volunteers as the organization tries to send supplies out as efficiently as possible. Davis said he appreciates Reighley’s approach in dealing with volunteers. However, Davis is mostly driven by thinking of the people he’s helping.

“That’s my motivation, is to be able to help and to give to them as much as I can,” Davis said.

Reighley says there is a need for more volunteers. ADRN is hosting a 3 hour volunteer orientation and preparedness course. That is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 5th from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the GT Austin Church located at 2700 Northland Drive, Room 207, Austin, TX 78756.

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