Ready to Respond: Volunteer groups step up to fill needs after fires, tornadoes and hurricanes

(WSVN) - From Puerto Rico to the Panhandle, after a hurricane hits, government assistance is just not enough, so volunteer groups are stepping in — and stepping up — to help. 7’s Brian Entin has our special assignment report “Ready to Respond.”

They descend on devastated areas across the country: places ravaged by fires, tornadoes and hurricanes.

They are volunteer groups with a drive to help — and the skills to match.

Gabriel Quinones-Medina, Team Rubicon: “We are a not-for-profit disaster response team comprised of veterans, first responders and kick-ass civilians.”

Matthew Campbell, Eagles’ Wings Foundation: “When they get the call from us, they’re ready to go.”

Jeremy Bruce, Operation BBQ Relief: “Every deployment that I go to, it restores my faith in humanity.”

Team Rubicon, Eagles’ Wings Foundation and Operation BBQ Relief mobilize thousands of volunteers to disaster sites.

The three nonprofits took part in the Governor’s Hurricane Conference in West Palm Beach to get the word out while the weather was calm.

Gabriel Quinones-Medina: “We want to get our name out there so people understand the capabilities and services that we can offer to them during disasters.”

Last year, Team Rubicon headed to Florida’s Panhandle after Hurricane Michael struck.

Volunteers cut trees and cleared debris.

Gabriel Quinones-Medina: “You can imagine the amount of trees that were down on people’s homes, properties. We provided heavy equipment operations to demo a lot of those houses so we can jumpstart the community to get contractors in to start rebuilding their homes.”

The group was started by two U.S. Marines service members who went to help after the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

Seventy percent of its volunteers are military veterans.

Gabriel Quinones-Medina: “It’s a mission at the end of the day. It’s finding that mission again, that sense of purpose.”

The mission for Eagles’ Wings Foundation is to help communities that may not get as much attention.

Matthew Campbell: “There are smaller communities just outside of the heaviest impact zone that have been devastated but that don’t get the help they need.”

Eagles’ Wings volunteers flew into Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and set up in Santa Isabel on the south side of the island.

Matthew Campbell: “We were able to coordinate opening up points of distribution and handing out emergency supplies.”

Operation BBQ Relief doesn’t hand out supplies — they bring their own and use them to cook up thousands of hot meals for disaster victims.

Jeremy Bruce: “Barbecue is comfort food, and when you hand that hot meal to somebody that has lost everything, and they have nothing — they’re sifting through the rubble of their home — and you give them a hot meal, it’s sometimes the first hot meal they have had in days.”

After Hurricane Michael, Operation BBQ Relief partnered with The Salvation Army to hand out a staggering 800,000 meals.

Jeremy Bruce: “It’s heartwarming. It’s encouraging.”

Heartwarming and encouraging to see people put their own lives on hold and band together to help others in their darkest hours.

Check out the links below to learn more about these volunteer organizations.

Eagles’ Wings Foundation:

Operation BBQ Relief:

Team Rubicon:

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