The darkness and gloom brought to the Texas Gulf Coast by Hurricane Harvey last month has dissipated as neighbors and volunteers help the Houston area recover, says a Nebraskan aiding American Red Cross efforts there.
Floodwaters have receded, and residents are working to rebuild their lives, said Karen Franco of Omaha.
"There’s only hope ahead," Franco said in a phone call Friday from Houston.
Franco, a 51-year-old hairdresser, might also be considered a disaster-relief enthusiast.
She's one of 44 Red Cross volunteers from Nebraska deployed in Texas and Florida to respond to hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Franco arrived in Texas on Aug. 29 and has spent most of her time helping at the Red Cross operations center in downtown Houston. Her tasks include coordinating and expediting supply shipments to shelters.
On Tuesday, she and other volunteers covered hundreds of supply pallets with tarps in anticipation of rain that never fell, she said.
Emergency rescue vehicles continue delivering meals and supplies to people, and nonprofits and authorities are working in concert with each other.
More than 3,500 Red Cross disaster workers are on the ground in Texas, with an additional 430 on the way, said Dick Dinsdale, a spokesman for the Red Cross region that includes Nebraska, Kansas and southwest Iowa. The organization also has more than 150 representatives helping in Louisiana.
On Friday, Red Cross crews were moving supplies and volunteers into the Southeast as Hurricane Irma advanced on Florida, Dinsdale said.
Franco said she has been amazed at the logistics of the Red Cross's operation, and her time in Texas reinforces the importance of volunteering in times of need, she said.
Franco has run a salon out of her home for 20 years but is now studying emergency management and nonprofit administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
She's been drawn to disaster relief in times of need since a tornado leveled Joplin, Missouri, in 2011, she said.
After driving there on her own and assisting recovery efforts, she started volunteering with other organizations and responding to other disasters sites in Nebraska and the region.
She encourages others to help out when disasters strike across the country or down the road.
"It’s never convenient or easy to do that, but what it pays your heart is beyond any money you can obtain,” Franco said.