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El Paso

El Paso volunteers answer texts for help during pandemic, severe weather

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John Hernandez, Nonprofit Exchange
A volunteer with Help Action leaves a box of food items for a person in need in a spot by the home to eliminate contact.

EL PASO, Texas -- As El Paso continues on a warming trend, the rest of Texas is struggling to regain power and water in the aftermath of a crippling cold front that knocked out basic utilities for days.

But El Pasoans -- and people across the country -- are volunteering to help that recovery from a distance.

People are stepping up their volunteer efforts through the El Paso-based nonprofit organization Nonprofit Exchange program called Help Action.

"We created Help Action as an early response to COVID-19," said executive director John Hernandez. "(It's) for those who were homebound because of being immunocompromised, or they had covid and didn't want to further risk infecting other people. (But) they had no way to access essential items."

Those in need of assistance sign up on the Help Action website. Volunteers receive their requests via text. Volunteers have a time limit to respond. They can deliver the goods to the door of the person in need without any interaction. The person in need of assistance can specify that they can reimburse the volunteer for the items, but Hernandez said volunteers often pick up the tab without collecting payment.

Extending the arm of assistance

Help Action has now expanded from El Paso to other parts of Texas and the United States.

"Right now we're helping everybody who has been displaced by the winter catastrophe in Austin and Dallas," Hernandez said. "Just Friday alone, we had 100 people sign up to volunteer to do deliveries in Austin."

That day, an Austin resident shared a video to Facebook, tagging Help Action, after receiving a donation from a volunteer during last week's severe snowstorm.

"This lady from Boston was able to provide a 5-gallon water bottle, more water bottles and milk for me and my husband," said Tasia Holliday from behind the camera. She gestured to the bottles on the floor and counter in her Austin kitchen.

"It's just a really big blessing to have someone go out of their way to give with no cost. That's just so beautiful, and I'm just so grateful," Holliday said, sounding as though she were about to cry.

Hernandez said in the year the nonprofit program has been in operation, demand and volunteerism has only increased.

"This gives volunteers that power back where they can feel like they're doing something for the community," Hernandez said. "They're able to work it into their own schedule because you decide whether you want to fulfill that request."

The Nonprofit Exchange is working with local food pantries to connect people with essential items.

Sign up to give or receive help by going to helpaction.org.

Coronavirus / Health / News / Video / Weather News

Stephanie Valle

Stephanie Valle co-anchors ABC-7 at 5, 6 and 10 weeknights.

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