LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - People all over the country, and especially in central Arkansas, want to help the victims of Harvey, whether they were affected by hurricane-force winds or relentless flooding. Many, though, feel overwhelmed by the need of the storm victims. A couple of local women are taking the challenge head-on to help people in Houston.
Nicole Paladino and Whitney Ohlhausen began organizing a supply drive Tuesday, and plan to drive a large truck full of essential items to shelters in areas impacted by flooding.
“We’ve actually talked quite a lot about just some things we can get involved in,” Ohlhausen mentioned. “Like [Nicole] said, we’re doers.”
They were inspired by a moment marked by the inability to act. Paladino got married last weekend in the Cayman Islands. She drove from Little Rock to Pearland, Texas, where her parents live, and they flew to the Caribbean together.
When Harvey hit, they were unable to return, so they flew instead to Little Rock. Paladino needed to return to Pearland to retrieve her car, and her parents needed to return home.
“They were talking about rental cars,” she recalled, “and I thought, ‘You know? How can we help these people who are literally losing everything while we’re just sitting here?’ And I said, ‘You know, if you guys have to drive back anyway, we should just get a U-Haul and fill it up with stuff.’”
She quickly called Ohlhausen, who also used to live in Texas, and they instantly went to work.
“In a matter of four minutes of being on the phone with her, we had Facebook posts going out, things had been shared numerous times, we already had scheduled pickups,” Paladino stated. “I mean, it was a minutes reaction.”
They called friends and businesses, found a truck, and got in touch with shelters around Pearland. The pledges quickly rolled in. A dentist’s office promised to donate toothbrushes and toothpaste, friends offered baby clothes and diapers, and Above & Beyond CrossFit offered a ton of bottled water.
They hope to pack the entire 16-foot truck by the end of the week.
“We have this one truck, and we have hopes to fill it to its brim,” Ohlhausen said. “But we have the resources, and know people, if we needed to rent another truck, or another truck, like, if we have a need for it, we’ll fill it and get it down there.”
Ohlhausen and Paladino went to law school together at UA-Little Rock, and said they have talked in the past about volunteering and projects they could start. They would admit that they are not experienced in disaster relief, but they would tell anyone that it does not take a superhero to make a difference.
“If you want to do it, you can,” Paladino said.
“Each person has their thing of how they can serve,” Ohlhausen added. “And so, mine may not be monetary, or hers, or maybe not even time, like some people have. But I feel like ours, and it confirmed what I thought, is just kind of organizing and getting it together. There’s so many people who want to help, but don’t know how, or didn’t look it up on the computer, and so, we can rally all those people together, and get it down there.”
They hope the roads to Houston will be clear by Saturday, so they can show all the people stuck in shelters how much Arkansas cares about them.
“Our task,” Ohlhausen claimed, “is to kind of get it together, and whatever we can do, if people have it, we’ll come and get it and get it down there.”
“We just want to help as many people as possible,” Paladino added.
The pair will be outside the Clinton Presidential Center with collection boxes from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday nights, and the Islamic Center of Little Rock will also have collection boxes.
“This Friday is actually one of their major holidays, the Eid, and they’ll have a huge prayer,” Paladino explained. “So they, in a matter of minutes, had gotten word out to 1,000 people.”
Paladino said shelters are asking for toiletries more than anything, but they also need towels, blankets, baby items, pet food, first aid kits, trash bags, gloves, individually-packaged snacks, and canned goods with pull-top lids (since they might not have can openers).
“We’re not turning anything away, and there’s no amount too much,” she added. “So like [Ohlhausen] said, if we fill this truck, we will get another truck. But we are willing to take anything and everything that’s offered.”
“There’s a need right now, in this immediate disaster,” Ohlhausen mentioned, “but this is going to take, like, a long time to rebuild. I mean, thousands and thousands of people homeless.”
To contact Ohlhausen and Paladino about donating items, send an email to ARHarveyHelp@gmail.com