KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Volunteers with Team Rubicon, an organization started by veterans to help with disasters, is in Knoxville helping those dealing with the aftermath of the August 7 tornado and storms.
Those with the organization explained to WATE that when disasters happen, like hurricanes and tornados, Team Rubicon helps alleviate some of the immediate financial burdens and suffering by helping with cleanup efforts and providing a medical response.
Amanda Irizarry is a part of volunteer leadership for the East Tennessee Metro area administration with Team Rubicon, and she’s been with the organization since December 2021. In the past, she’s helped with efforts after the flooding in Eastern Kentucky and, more recently, in Selma Alabama, but this time the disaster was much closer to home.
“I live in Knoxville, so when it happens in your own backyard, I can’t just sit around and pass it by. I immediately called my manager, told him I wasn’t gonna be at work for a few days and got out with my team and helped. And it doesn’t matter if the house down the street is completely fine, what matters is these homeowners who have been affected,” Irizarry said.
On Thursday, part of the 30 volunteers that are helping with efforts in the Knoxville area were working on clearing damaged trees in Stan Davis’ backyard. Davis said he was sitting at his desk when the storms blew through. He watched as some of the trees began bending over before seeking protection in a bathroom.
A few days after the storm, Team Rubicon volunteers approached Davis as he was outside with his neighbor assessing the damage. Davis said he had already gotten several quotes to get the damage cleaned up when the volunteers asked if they could help.
“Oh goodness, it just felt like an immediate weight was lifted off my shoulders when they said they were a volunteer agency. It was really cool knowing that they’re just former veterans and they still have that heart that they want to help people, and this is the way that they help out. So the way I felt just relief because like I said, the financial burden is a lot, especially with trees down like this, and unless it’s actually touching your dwelling insurance doesn’t really cover that. So you’re just wondering how am I going to come up with the money to take care of that and these people have just alleviated that stressful thing. “
Team Rubicon has more than 150,000 volunteers, Irizarry said. One of those is Chainsaw Instructor Mack Schmidt, who has been with Team Rubicon since 2017. He explained that the people Team Rubicon focuses on helping are people who are uninsured, elderly, veterans, or anyone who does not have the means to cover the damage left behind by natural disasters.
Schmidt said Team Rubicon is there for people on their worst day, and the ability to do that for them makes the hard work worth it.
“It is wonderful when, you know, like this homeowner over here, they come out, they look like ‘anything we can do for you?’ that’s great, you know? So, you know, just sometimes the faces of these homeowners,” Schmidt said. “That’s all that we need and this community here in Knoxville is great. I mean, seriously, we’re talking this morning, I don’t think we’ve ever gotten better support from the community.”
Schmidt served in the Navy, however, he explained that being a veteran is not a requirement for volunteering and the signup process is very easy.
“After I retired from the Navy, I read an article in Time, Newsweek or some magazine, I don’t remember, and it talked about Team Rubicon. I said, ‘Hey, that’s really cool. How do I sign up?’ I figured out how to sign up. It was a very easy signup and I mean, literally within four days, they’re like, ‘Hey, do you want to go to Houston?’ I’m like, ‘Man, this was fast.’ Sure enough, I signed up. I pressed go. My plane tickets came in the mail and I was on my way to Houston.”
Team Rubicon began with two Marines who decided to help after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti. After gathering supplies and volunteers, the organization’s website says the small group of veterans, first responders, and medical professionals deployed to Haiti just a few days after the earthquake.
To volunteer, donate, or learn more about Team Rubicon, visit their website www.teamrubiconusa.org.