New Smyrna Beach volunteers bring relief to hurricane-ravaged Texas even with Irma bearing down on Florida

Photo by Henry Frederick / Headline Surfer / Olivia Catheline, 8, does her fair share of packing up canned food, clothes, toiletries, blankets, buckets and even some toys, at the former Kmart Plaza in New Smyrna Beach for victims of Hurricane Harvey. Ray Catheline, the little girl's father, Ray Catheline, who organized the event less than two weeks ago, estimates the items in the four truckloads at close to half a million dollars.

By HENRY FREDERICK
Headline Surfer

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. -- With one semi already in Beaumont, Texas, and thee more heading that way today with relief supplies for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, Ray Catheline is staying the course and getting the task at hand completed. 

Even with Irma, now a category 5 with sustained winds of 175 mph, bearing down on Florida and packing a potentially devastating punch when it arrives Sunday. Just where Irma will strike remains the hot topic of the day.

New Smyrna Beach's Ray Catheline rallies relief convoy

If Catheline was hearing faint whispers from the naysayers as to the wisdom of shipping supplies to Texas when they could be needed here,  he was not letting on to give credence and back off from his commitment.

If there's anything he learned from his late father, Catheline, 40, married with two children, understands the need to get the job done. 

"It's the right thing to do," Catheline said of the commitment he made to helping the victims of Hurricane Harvey, adding, "It's Americans helping Americans. As for Irma, now we have to pray for our own. Be safe - be smart. We are leaving Thursday afternoon and hope that we have a home of our own to come back to." 

From New Smyrna Beach, Fl to Beaumont, Texas / Headline Surfer

If Catheline was hearing faint whispers from the naysayers as to the wisdom of shipping supplies when they could be needed here,  he's not going to go back on his commitment. If there's anything he learned from his late father, Catheline understands the need to get the job done. 

"it's the right thing to do," Catheline said of the commitment he made to helping the victims of Hurricane Harvey, adding, "It's Americans helping Americans.  As for Irma, now we have to pray for our own. Be safe be smart. We are leaving Thursday afternoon and hope that we have a home of our own to come back to." 

It has been a 12-day odyssey of reaching out to friends, neighbors, acquaintances and even strangers on social media. This soft spoken salon owner who has provided for his family by cutting hair, say his longtime friends and new-found supporters. But he's a veteran of conmunity fundraisers over the last several years, mostly with Cudas Unhooked and Habitat for Humanity housing for homeless teenagers on their own, but still in school.

Catheline and his volunteers have taken in supplies of clothes, non-perishable foods, bottled water, toiletries, blankets, pillows. The list of items is seemingly endless. There's the receiving of items, sorting, wrapping and placing on pallets with items held in place by heavy plastic and secured by industrial tape.

"I had this idea a week ago Monday and I messaged my friend, Missy McCormick, about it and then posted on Facebook. Another friend, Heidi Hales messaged she was in and that Tuesday. Then the Mid-Florida Jeep Club with Charlene Greer got involved and kaylee from 103.3 the Vibe and we were off and running. In a matter of days, With a core of 30 volunteers, in a matter of days, the grassroots effort had mushroomed to some 200 helpers." 

But a lot has changed in the past 72 hours and it's only going to get worse as the hours as to which way Irma is going to turn.

Catheline is acutely aware it's a race against the clock with Irma bearing down on Florida to get those trucks out by tonight as traffic is expected to build in the next 24 to 48 hours. The trucks will be needed elsewhere after they arrive in Texas.

Ironically, it's Irma herself, who will secure the last couple of truckloads locally because Catheline can't get drivers to come to Florida this late in the game. The trucks already utilized belong to his stepfather back in Ohio.

A lot has changed in the last 48 hours to put a dent in the Catheline Convoy relief effort. 

"We're going to do our best to wrap this up tonight because everyone is in a panic about where Irma is going to strike and we've got to get these trucks on the road either tonight or Thursday morning at the latest. Like the first truck, they are headed to Beaumont, Texas.

Previous Related Coverage:

April 30, 2011
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- Just five days before his Cudas Unhooked fundraiser to raise funds for struggling and even homeless New Smyrna Beach High School students and their families, Ray Catheline's father died. 
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Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most experienced reporters, having amassed dozens of journalism-industry awards. Frederick is enrolled online at Full Sail University in Winter Garden, FL, where he's a third of the way though the Master of Arts program in New Media Journalism. His graduation will be in March 2018.