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Look for the Helpers


How one man from New Eagle, Pennsylvania gathered his friends, brought a community together, and helped the people of Houston.

  • One of the many donation drop-off spots
  • The donations kept rolling in, night and day.
  • Volunteers helping to load up the trucks
  • The fleet of trucks on the road to Houston
  • Some of the many hard-working volunteers
  • Loading up supplies for the trip to Houston
  • One of the trailers used to transport supplies down to Houston
  • Loading up supplies for the trip to Houston

It started off with one Facebook post.

Paul Kennedy saw the devastation from Hurricane Harvey and resolved to help. His request was simple—if any of his Facebook friends wanted to help fill a trailer full of supplies, Paul would drive that trailer down from New Eagle, Pennsylvania to Houston. Little did he know how fast the word would spread, or how many people wanted to help.

“I figured I’d just drive down myself,” Paul said. “I don’t know really what possessed me originally. I just got tired of the negativity going on in our country today, and these people needed help. And I thought—This is a way to help. Just go and do it.

He soon discovered that he wasn’t alone. In a few short days, hundreds of people and dozens of businesses had donated supplies—from Monongahela, out to Washington, PA, even all the way from Erie. People donated water and food. Agway donated 6,000lbs of animal feed. Bob Hutton from South Hills Movers heard they needed a truck and showed up on Paul’s doorstep one night with a tractor trailer, telling Paul to do whatever he needed to do with it. Mosites Motorsports loaned Paul a trailer and offered to pay for all of the fuel for the trip. Drop-off locations popped up throughout the community at places like Debra Mangino’s Hair Design, Cox Market, the Eighty Four Agway, and the Mingo Inn. Paul’s daughter Brianna Kennedy and her friend Beckie Yohe were instrumental in spreading the word and keeping things organized.

“It started that Wednesday after Harvey hit,” Paul explained. “By Thursday, I realized it was getting overwhelming. By Friday at 7:00pm, we had loaded up six pick-ups with trailers and two tractor trailers.”

He and a group of drivers—including his brother Gene, a Peoples employee—left for Texas at midnight that Friday. The journey didn’t start off smoothly.

“It took us nine hours to get to Columbus,” Paul chuckled as he explained. “So you can imagine what that drive was like.” They quickly realized that the trailers were overloaded—but not before they had a tire blow out.

Right outside of Columbus, the first tire blew while they were driving up an off-ramp. “But you wouldn’t believe what was at the top of that ramp,” Paul said, “A tire shop. The place was closed, but the owner was actually there. We told him what we were doing and he opened up the garage. Not only did he replace the blown tire for free, he gave us another eight tires, too. Probably $1,000 worth of tires, plus his time.”

“It was like God followed us all the way down,” Paul added. “Even as we were sitting outside of Columbus, people were driving by and stopping to give us $20. They saw all of the trailers and knew what we were doing. And they just wanted to help.”

The group had a contact in Gonzales, Louisiana, south of Baton Rouge. They stopped there to join a convoy that was heading towards Houston. Their target city was about 6 hours away in Sulphur, Louisiana, just across the border from Houston.

“When we started driving to Sulphur in the convoy, there were dozens of other trailers and RVs and flatbeds. And as we kept driving, more and more people joined us.”

Before they left for that last leg, Sulphur was considered a “safe zone.” But on the way, they learned that the situation there was a lot more dangerous than they first realized. Sulphur had become a “hot zone,” which means that there was active looting going on. Paul described how the group was extremely stressed and emotional at this news, wondering if they should turn around, but another member of the convoy assured them that he had been there yesterday, and that things weren’t too bad. So they kept going and finally reached the Church in Sulphur that was collecting supplies.

“We went to a warehouse that they had set aside. It was almost empty when we got there, but when we started unloading, everyone was in awe. We filled up about half that warehouse by the time we were done.” He even noted that while the Church wasn’t prepared to distribute animal food, they got a hold of a veterinarian in Houston who had run out. The vet showed up and loaded up a truck full of horse feed, plus dog and cat food, just as Paul and his group were getting ready to leave.

“That was the part that amazed me the most,” Paul said. “Everybody just did whatever needed to be done. If someone was in a bind, people came through. A lot of strangers became a lot of friends. Nobody ever had to ask for help twice. They asked, and it was done. Everyone who was involved should feel proud, because they played a huge part in helping people who needed it.”

At Peoples, we see people coming together every day – whether it’s our employees coming together to help our customers, or our customers coming together to help their communities, and in this case, our communities coming together to help people halfway across the country. The spirit of giving is an inherent part of who we all are.

“People from all backgrounds, all races, all religions got involved,” Paul explained. “So many people wanted to do something active. So we made it personal for them, and put a face to it.”

“We said, ‘Let’s do this. And let’s do this together.’ And we did.”

Beloved Pittsburgh icon Mr. Fred Rodgers once said, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'" As the world’s eyes turned to Houston, an area wrecked and devastated, we looked for the helpers. And we certainly found one in Paul Kennedy and the group he led into the wake of a storm.

Paul and his group of volunteers would like to thank the following:

Cox's Market

Mosites Motorsports

The Gun Rack

Rosie's Mingo Inn

CJs Furniture 

LA Sweets

84 Agway 

Bill's Feeds

Fallen Timber Stables

Ann's Feed

Monongahela Fire Dept

Sydmor Stables

Camp Haven Kennels

Hapchuck

Sheetz

Bethel Metals

Deb Manginos

Model Cleaners

South Hills Movers

RESN

Trax Farm

Lesleh Precision

Volkers Body Shop

Joe's Body & Paint

Huffy's RV

Peoples Natural Gas

Rice Energy

Stoney's Beer

And thank you to everyone who helped: 

Gene Kennedy

Gary Kennedy

Allison Kennedy

Brianna Kennedy

Joyce Youmans

Beckie Yohe

Shawna Sardone

Shanon & Rick Geiser

Chris Winklevoss

Audrey Wones

Darrel Wones

Carol Chiodo

Bill Howells

Lou Mangino

Harry Shaffer

Terry Carter

Drew Guarino

Colton Sowers

Dillon Kennedy

Travis Najcim

Rich Kurth

Dolly Macher

Pat Ponohoe

Doug Mosites

Jason & Dee Gunia

Mark Flament

Madison Kennedy

Bj Melilli

Tyler Hufnagel

Eilish Kennedy

Peggy & Steve Cox

Shane Cox

Bob Hutton

Lou Mangino

Darrel St Cyr

Reverend Lesley M. Baltimore

Audra Raynak

Elizabeth Jo Leonard

…and the hundreds of people who donated!