For the ninth time since 2016, John Riesebeck, owner of Smokin J’s BBQ in Gulfport, is off to help storm victims. He made the eight-hour drive to the north Gulf Coast on Monday, September 6, with hurricane relief supplies for victims of the Category 4 Hurricane Ida, which devastated the area on Monday, August 30.
Riesebeck and his team of volunteers – namely Kathy Wilson and Jim Kemp – loaded the 26’ foot truck with necessities donated by people and businesses over the last week.
According to Riesebeck, the community did not fall short.
“This was the first time I saw the tires squat when we were all loaded up,” Riesebeck said. “Most every business in Gulfport got involved with some type of fundraising effort.”
The results of the call for donations yielded up to $40,000 worth of items, including 40 gallons of hand sanitizer and multiple pallets of water bottles.
“I just want to say how appreciative I am of everybody who helped,” Riesebeck said. “I don’t want to forget anybody, but it feels like it was nearly everyone in Gulfport.”
With flooding trapping many Louisianans, it’s not safe for vehicles to drive into Baton Rouge or New Orleans at this time. That complication lead Riesebeck and his hurricane-bound driving companion of four years, Ted Easterbrook, to the fire department in Gulfport, Mississippi.
“It could be us one day,” Riesebeck said. “I’d hope this is good karma for our Gulfport, Florida.”
Back in Gulfport, Mississippi, city officials from Baton Rouge and New Orleans will transfer the goods to stranded communities in both cities.
“I guess I have a passion for helping others; it’s something I was raised by – to help those that you can,” Smokin’ J’s owner said. “It’s for the smiles, the cheers and the hugs – it’s heartwarming.”