A Grady County volunteer firefighter is gearing up for what experts predict may be a busy hurricane season.
Mark Smith is the CEO of nonprofit “Air Hope.”
Smith rescues those stranded by flood waters.
Smith is a volunteer firefighter at the Cox City Fire Department in southeast Grady County.
“There are some people that are scared and then there are some people that are just like, ‘It’s a hurricane,’” Smith said. “I’ve just got to get out for a day or two and I’ll be back.”
During Hurricane Delta and Tropical Storm Beta in 2020, Smith and team of trained professionals spent hours rescuing people stranded. Pets, of course, are welcome too.
“Their homes were flooding with 18 inches of water,” Smith said. “Their electricity was turned off for their safety. Everything was flooded but they were still staying home just to protect their home.”
While physically and mentally exhausting, rescues are the easy part.
Raising the money to fund the trip and put gas in the boat, Smith said, has become the biggest challenge.
On average one-week costs about $5,000.
“Right now, we are literally going out on a shoestring budget,” Smith said. “We are trying to do what we can go to and respond wherever somebody needs us to go and when we are called upon.”
Smith said helping people is in his DNA and if forecasters are correct, our fellow Americans may need all the help they can get.
“It is so rewarding to just go and help and the only thing that really keeps us from going would be the finances,” Smith said.
Smith is still waiting to hear back on grant’s he’s applied for.
Visit Air Hope’s website if you would like to donate.