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From Houston to the Hampton Inn, residents help those hit by hurricanes

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Animals on the tarmac at Houston Executive Airport. Submitted
Peg Petrelli greets one of the dogs she helped transport out of the Houston area while volunteering with the non-profit group AIR, (Animal Investigations and Response).
More than a dozen families who escaped the wrath of Hurricane Irma were served a hot, home cooked meal Sunday at the Hampton Inn in Hendersonville thanks to Amy Lafayette and several of her Facebook friends. Photos SUBMITTED
Volunteers wrote notes of encouragement to Irma evacuees who shared a meal with local families on Sunday. Submitted

The stories of local residents who have gone above and beyond to help those devastated by Hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida continue to inspire us all.

Here are two recent examples:

'A community effort'

When a friend mentioned to Hendersonville resident Amy Lafayette that she met some people displaced by Hurricane Irma at a local hotel on Friday, Lafayette got to thinking.

"I thought I'd like to have a home-cooked meal if I was going through something like that," she said. Lafayette immediately took her idea of helping hurricane evacuees to Facebook.

Before she knew it, Lafayette's friends and even a few local businesses had signed up to bring food, gift cards, and even money to pay for evacuees' hotel rooms.

On Sunday, more than a dozen Floridian families enjoyed a home cooked meal and caring company with Lafayette and some of her friends.

"It was just a huge community effort," she said. "It grew well beyond what I imagined."

Besides more than enough food for the 14 or so families staying at the Hampton Inn who took Lafayette up on her offer, volunteers handed out more than $1,500 in gift cards and paid more than $2,500 toward hotel rooms.

Monday night, Lafayette checked her text messages.

"We are 'blown away' by the kindness of Hendersonville," read one message.

Lafayette said she was a little surprised by how many people responded to her initial Facebook post.

"To me it shows how people want to help even in their own back yards," she said. "We just wanted to let people know that we do care about them."

A passion for animals

Hendersonville Alderman Peg Petrelli was asked by the president of the non-profit organization AIR (Animal Investigations and Response), to help with the Hurricane Harvey animal relief efforts in Houston.

A certified animal cruelty investigator, Petrelli is a credentialed responder through the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to support animal care functions at emergency and disaster sites in Tennessee.

Having been a responder for over 15 years, she has worked all over the U.S. and in Canada to provide relief, and personally knew the team members in Texas requesting assistance.

"When a region is faced with as much devastation that Houston faced, it takes a national response to assist not only the people, but the animals," said Petrelli.

AIR partners with the Houston Humane Society to provide intake for shelters which became otherwise inoperable due to flooding and damage from the storm. Many animals that came into AIR's care were already available for adoption prior to the storm and were matched with animal rescue organizations all over the country who could accept them into their program.

Petrelli said that by clearing out shelters in the affected areas of Houston, it created room to take in the large influx of stray animals waiting for their owners to reclaim them.

Once the intake animals were checked by veterinarians and given lots of care by volunteers like Petrelli, they went through a thorough paperwork process to prepare them for transport out to different organizations across the country. The animals were transported by tractor trailer to two Houston airports where they were then flown to their final destination.

Over 250 animals were moved out in four days by AIR alone.

"Through the tireless efforts of all of the organizations working together as a cohesive team, it was a very successful operation for the animals," Petrelli added.

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