Joey Leonard uses a boat to bring people from their homes to stores for supplies. (Credit: Facebook)

Atlanta friends tow boat to Texas for search and rescue, relief

After almost a week in Texas helping flood victims, four men from Atlanta plan to head home, but only to gather more supplies for a return trip.

Days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, tearing through Rockport and other parts of Texas, a local business owner decided he could no longer just watch what was happening.

Alex Guma loaded his camper and brought family members Dylan Guma, Roberto Guma and longtime friend Joey Leonard to Texas to help Harvey victims. (Credit: Facebook)

Planet Ink Tattoos founder Alex Guma posted on Facebook about 8 a.m. last Monday, saying he wanted to help with search and rescue.

His only concern was that he didn’t want to drive from Atlanta to Texas only to be turned away, he said.

Hours later, Guma started gathering donations for fuel, food and “anything that can help.” He had borrowed a boat to tow from his camper and began filling it with supplies ranging from pet food to baby diapers.

Longtime friend Joey Leonard joined Guma and two of his family members, Dylan Guma and Roberto Guma. The four of them took off for Texas that night. 

“I go where God sends me,” Leonard, a 34-year-old Army veteran said.

Leonard told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he wasn’t looking for glory.

“We’re human — that’s how I see it,” he said.

Watching the devastation on the news was nothing compared to what he and the Guma family saw when they arrived in Port Arthur after about 24 hours of driving.

“That’s where we dropped the boat,” Leonard said. “People couldn’t leave where they were at; we just took them from the boat to local shelters. Many people had to get to the store to buy food and water.”

RELATED: How to help victims of Hurricane Harvey 

Leonard said a boat with three men from Lufkin, Texas, capsized Tuesday night in front of them when they were returning from a search and rescue mission.

“We had linked up with them and made a team,” Leonard said.

The river had risen to the level of a bridge and the men lost control of their boat when they hit a strong current.

“They smacked under the bridge and it flushed them like a toilet,” he said.

Leonard said one man was quickly found alive, clinging to a tree, but the bodies of the other two men weren’t recovered until Sunday.

RELATED: Eat at these metro Atlanta restaurants to help Hurricane Harvey victims

While sleeping only a few hours a night and moving from city to city, Leonard said he was most impressed by the beautiful spirit of the people out there who are unconcerned with race, religion or politics.

“It brings everyone back to ground zero; they need food, water, shelter and love,” Leonard said. 

His team plans to return to Texas in a week or so with more supplies and to help with demolition and reconstruction.

In other news:

Veterinarian tech, Heather Harris from El Pecos Texas talks about rescuing animals from the flood waters. Video by John Spink/AJC

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