By Russ Aikman, American Red Cross

Two weeks after Hurricane Harvey slammed ashore in Texas, destruction was still on the mind of Ken Cooper, organizer of the eighth annual Corpus Christi Rock & Ride Festival.
Normally the event benefits a variety of military programs, but this year Cooper wanted to shine the spotlight on a disaster relief organization that had put an army of volunteers on the ground to help his community.

The American Red Cross was invited to set up a booth and a representative from the local chapter spoke to the crowd from the main stage.

Debra Murphy-Luera, executive director of the Red Cross Coastal Bend chapter, thanked festival goers for their support and encouraged anyone interested in volunteering to visit the organization’s booth near the stage area.

Those who accepted her invitation were in for a surprise: They were greeted by six newly minted Red Cross volunteers from the Philippines.

The men – Christian John F. Jaruos, Herbert E. Guzman, Gilbert R Dela Cruz, Alhasn Olaif, Everett Moises T. Artes and Manuel Perlito J. Herrera – are all crewmen on a Gulf of Mexico cargo ship. In the wake of the unprecedented devastation left in Harvey’s wake, they were stuck in port.

“We are just sitting around waiting for our company to get us going and were all heartbroken watching the news,” Dela Cruz said.

They were facing “way too much downtime,” Jaruos said. “So when we saw there was a need for volunteers we just decided as a group to lend a hand doing whatever was needed.”

In all, 12 of the cargo ship’s crew decided to reach out to the Red Cross and offer their time.

Artes has been to several shelters, helping set up, clean cots and serve meals, and even went to work in a field kitchen in Victoria, Texas.

“I have never been on an emergency response vehicle before, but getting to serve hot meals street by street in Wharton was just awe-inspiring,” Artes said. He said it’s heartbreaking to see the storm devastation, yet heartwarming to see how residents have come to aid one another.

A portion of the donations raised at the Rock & Ride Festival were donated for hurricane relief operations.