Ashtabula man leaving for Texas to help hurricane survivors firsthand

Jeff Albert was not asked to go to Houston -- he called the Red Cross and said he wanted to go

Jeff Albert, Ashtabula, Red Cross volunteer

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – A local man is headed south — not exactly sure of what he’ll be doing — all because he felt he needed to be there to help victims of Hurricane Harvey.

By the end of next week, the local chapter of the American Red Cross will have 20 people in the Houston area. Two of them will leave Wednesday with the chapter’s Emergency Response Vehicle.

Jeff Albert is one of those volunteers. He spent his afternoon at the Red Cross offices on Belmont Avenue in Liberty, learning about the ERV he’ll be taking to Houston.

He’s 64 and from Ashtabula, where two years ago, he retired after selling the auto repair shop his father started in the 1950s.

Jeff swims in Lake Erie and just returned from biking across North Dakota.

He’s the stereotypical Red Cross volunteer.

“I mean, they put their lives on hold. Their families are here and they go to help complete strangers because they know they can make a difference. It blows my mind every time they go,” said the Red Cross chapter’s executive director, Karen Conklin.

How you can help Hurricane Harvey survivors

This will be Jeff’s first Red Cross deployment, though he volunteered with a church group in New York after Hurricane Sandy.

“I was just kind of in awe by it all so when I retired, I thought I could devote some time to volunteer work and here I am,” he said.

Jeff will be distributing water and with the red Cambro units in his truck, he’ll also be delivering hot food.

“That’s all I really know right now. What I’m getting into, I don’t know,” he said.

As far as how his wife feels about him leaving for Houston, Jeff said he “thinks” she’s okay with it.

Jeff was not asked to go to Houston — he called the Red Cross and said he wanted to go.

But he said he’s getting something out of it, too.

“To add value to your own life, you have to give value to someone else’s life and the more value…that you give, then the more value that you get out of your own life.”

Jeff didn’t know many details of what he’ll be doing. It’s one of those adventures he’ll have to figure out as he goes.

He doesn’t even know where he’s going to sleep but talking about it reminded him that he might want to bring a sleeping bag.