Scott Caroselli (NMLS #176772) has been a residential loan officer with PrimeLending for more than 23 years. While he calls San Antonio home, Scott has a close connection to Rockport, Texas. For more than 15 years, Scott and his wife and son have had a second home on the beautiful Estes Flats in Rockport, frequently splitting their time between San Antonio and the quaint coastal town, which Scott endearingly refers to as “our little drinking village with a fishing problem.”
As Hurricane Harvey was making landfall near Rockport, Scott knew that help would be needed, so he and his family immediately began working on a plan of action. Within 48 hours, Scott had gathered enough supplies, generators, and water to fill a flatbed trailer and the back of his Ford f250 pickup truck. On Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, Scott, along with two close friends, headed to Rockport with the load of supplies. He wasn’t prepared for the devastation wrought by Harvey, and it was immediately apparent to Scott that the small community’s emergency response services were overwhelmed.
“So much of the city was in ruins,” said Scott. “There was no power, water, or gasoline. People were walking around in a daze, just shell-shocked and overcome with emotion.”
After trying to check on friends and neighbors, they began distributing the supplies, including water, ice, gloves, chainsaws, generators, and fuel to run them; tools and equipment to help families address some of their immediate needs.
“We just drove around and randomly stopped and helped whoever we saw in need, and they were not hard to find,” said Scott.
They drove back to San Antonio late that night with the empty trailer. Scott told his wife about the damage to their home, which was substantial. They both agreed that their home could wait, and that their friends and neighbors in Rockport needed to come first.
“People were desperate for things like water, food, tarps, propane, work gloves, and shovels to help with the debris,” said Scott.
Even before he left with the initial deployment of supplies, Scott had rented a Penske truck to collect donations. As word spread of his efforts, friends, acquaintances, and business associates generously began donating desperately needed supplies. Donations even came from people out of state via Amazon Prime, as well as other PrimeLending offices. A local TV station got wind of what Scott was doing and helped to further get the word out. It didn’t take long for the Penske truck, which he had parked at his PrimeLending office in San Antonio, to rapidly fill up.
Scott headed back to Rockport on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, with the loaded moving truck filled with all of the generously donated equipment and supplies. His wife and son accompanied him, driving the family pickup truck, which was also loaded with supplies. Navigating the return trip was challenging, as many gas stations were closed or out of fuel, and a number of roads had been blocked off.
“We had heard that the Hwy 188 bridge at Port Bay leading into the city had been compromised by the hurricane and was closed down, so we had to take a longer, circuitous route until we finally made it there hours later,” said Scott.
He and his family spent the Labor Day weekend distributing the supplies and doing what they could to help some of the local families whose lives and homes had been direly impacted by the storm.
“Everyone from our local PrimeLending offices really stepped up and did a fantastic job to help make this happen,” said Scott. “There are actually a number of PrimeLending San Antonio and New Braunfels employees who have small coastal vacation homes in this area, so these communities are very dear to our hearts, making the subsequent relief efforts here very personal for us.”
Albert Chapa, PlainsCapital Bank’s McAllen market president, recognized that Texas’ lower Rio Grande Valley had dodged Harvey’s bullet, but he couldn’t shake the images and news reports of the hurricane’s devastation along the coastline. Albert spoke with Brad Williams, PlainsCapital Bank McAllen branch president, and within 15 minutes they had decided to pull together a small group of volunteers and take the PlainsCapital Bank cooker, which the McAllen bank uses for charitable events, up the coast to provide free meals to Harvey’s victims.
“Initially we weren’t sure where to go,” said Albert. “Corpus didn’t seem to be in as dire a situation as other hard hit areas. I reached out to some friends from Rockport and Port Aransas, and they said we should go to Rockport.”
Albert tried contacting the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and some local Rockport churches, but couldn’t reach anyone. Furthermore, he couldn’t find any hotel rooms available in the area. That’s when Brad said, “Let’s just go. The need is now. Let’s go.”
The next day, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, they purchased food, water, and supplies and went to work prepping meals of hamburgers, chips and cookies.
“Burgers were the most efficient way for us to provide that many meals to that many people,” said Albert.
The team of volunteers was comprised of five PlainsCapital Bank employees — Albert, Brad, Commercial Loan Officer Armando Martinez, Upper Rio Grande Valley Market President Larry Gonzalez, and Lobby Services Supervisor Michael Rios; a couple of Albert’s close friends — brothers Richard and Thomas Perez; and one of Albert’s longtime bank customers, Dr. Marco Gutierrez. They left McAllen at around 5 a.m. Thursday morning, Aug. 31, with three vehicles including a U-Haul moving truck filled with food and supplies and a pickup truck towing the large cooker.
They arrived in Rockport at around 9 a.m. and were in shock by the trail of destruction Harvey left in its wake — buildings demolished, boats submerged, and vehicles piled on top of one another.
Navigating the debris and various road closures, they eventually located a crowd of people in an old, unused HEB grocery store parking lot that was serving as a staging area for the FBI, TXDOT, Texas Border Patrol and police, fire, and emergency personnel. One of the staging area coordinators walked up to Albert and said, “If you guys are here to help, we could really use it.” Soon he was guiding the team to a place where they could set up their cooking station.
“It was almost like they had been waiting for us,” said Albert.
A group of local volunteers helped them unload their food and supplies, and by 11 a.m. they were serving hamburgers to all of the on-site first responders and displaced residents.
“The burgers were going as fast as we could make them,” said Albert. “Up until that point, all anyone there had to eat were packaged military MREs (meals ready to eat). Everyone was so appreciative of what we were doing.”
By 3 p.m. the McAllen contingent had run out of food. They had served around 600 meals. The cook team had been so busy feeding people that they were unaware that just a few miles away across town Vice President Mike Pence and Texas Governor Greg Abbott were addressing the media and visiting with hurricane survivors. It was a whirlwind experience for the team that all came together on the fly.
“Sometimes you just have to get up and go,” said Albert. “We saw that firsthand. When your intentions are good, everything falls into place. They needed our help. There is no way they could have fed everyone that day.”
According to Albert, the return trip was bittersweet. The group was proud of the assistance they had provided, but recognized the tremendous need they had left behind.
Albert recalled a family they came across who had lost everything and were just sitting in the bed of a pickup truck with dazed and shocked expressions on their faces.
“We saw so many people’s lives exposed,” said Albert. “Those images will stay with us.”