Twin Cities men help Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas

| September 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

Eight Christian men from around the Twin Cities traveled to Texas to assist Hurricane Harvey victims Aug. 31-Sept. 4. Courtesy/Erisman family

A group of eight Christian men from around the Twin Cities traveled to Texas to assist with recovery from Hurricane Harvey Aug. 31-Sept. 4.

“I had been feeling a call to go to Houston that week as things progressed,” said Robert Erisman, 35, a former Marine who recognized his previous work in disaster recovery could be of service.

It turned out Erisman, who attends St. Peter in Forest Lake, wasn’t alone. His brother, Rick; cousin Eric Rainey; friends and a few co-workers from Dexon Computer in Bloomington also desired to help the hurricane victims after the storm struck Aug. 25.

“It was the Holy Spirit,” Erisman said about the trip coming together.

They took time away from work and their families as they traveled 1,170 miles south with four vehicles loaded with donated food, water, toiletries and Bibles for the victims. Driving through the night both ways, the group also hauled two flat boats, two canoes and a safety raft for rescuing.

Catholic groups offering donations included Knights of Columbus and Catholic Watchmen from St. Pius V in Cannon Falls and NET Ministries in West St. Paul served as a donation drop-off site. Edinbrook Church, a non-denominational church in Brooklyn Park, also provided sizable donations and served as a drop-off site.

It turned out that rescuing needs had dwindled by the men’s arrival, but the need for food and water for victims persisted. According to, 70 people have died from the hurricane.

Rick Erisman, 38, a parishioner of St. Joseph in Miesville, said the people they encountered “would just express their gratitude to be alive. Everyone seemed to be in very good spirits although they had gone through just a traumatic ordeal.”

Collaborating primarily with the Texas and Cajun Navies, informal groups of boat owners who have assisted in the wake of recent natural disasters, they split up in groups of two and sought to help a variety of communities in the greater Houston area.

“Whole neighborhoods are still under water,” said Nick VanHeel, 38, a parishioner of St. Joseph in West St. Paul.

VanHeel and, Josh Schmidt, 35, who attends St. Michael in St. Michael, got extra help in helping the heavily-flooded town of Sour Lake, which had run short on food and water. A donor offered a $5,000 gift card for VanHeel and Schmidt to purchase groceries for the residents.

The group also purchased $1,650 worth of groceries for displaced immigrants and distributed diapers for families with small children. The men also helped to set up humanitarian aid stations in Port Arthur and Orange in addition to bringing food and water to residents who were stuck in their homes due to the flooding.

Tami Erisman, Robert’s wife, maintained a Facebook page with updates from the trip and encouragement to donate funds for supplying food, water and other goods needed for Harvey’s victims. She also maintained a FaithLauncher page to ask for financial support.

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Category: Featured, Local News