While most Ohio residents watched the aftermath from afar, one Westerville native was rowing his canoe around a Houston neighborhood, saving residents and pets from post-Hurricane Harvey flood waters in Texas.

Don Paullo, 49, grew up in Westerville, attending both Westerville South High School and what is now Otterbein University. He moved to the Houston area in the 1990s and now lives in the West Memorial neighborhood of Houston with his wife, Brandi, their 9-year-old son, Luca, and 8-year-old daughter, Lila.

The family stayed in their house through the brunt of Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 25 and 26, and awoke Aug. 27 to the flooding that heavy rainfall had produced.

"Sunday morning, we woke up and the water in the street was higher than we'd ever seen it -- higher than anyone in the neighborhood had ever seen it," Paullo said. "It was already too high to drive our car out."

Thanks largely to social media, Paullo and his neighbors began organizing in whatever way they could.

At one point, he heard that a family's dog was trapped in a house with rising flood waters, and he and a neighbor jumped into action, rowing his canoe toward the residence.

"We kicked down the door and went in the back, and there was a really large dog standing on a countertop," he said. "So we put him in the canoe and took him back to where the water had receded."

Soon, neighbors had worked out who had boats, who had working cellphones and who had backgrounds in rescue, organization or any other useful task.

Paullo had his canoe, knowledge from obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout from Boy Scout Troop 560 in Westerville and a background in organizing mountain bike races. He was a prime candidate to be a member of a makeshift rescue team.

Named after their subdivision, the group of neighbors dubbed themselves the Nottingham Forest Navy, and got to work saving more residents and pets, spending the next few days rowing or boating through the flood waters.

Paullo said he didn't see an official rescue team for three days.

"The really important thing was that on that day, there were no other rescuers," Paullo said. "I think there were some areas in much more dire need than us at the time, and that's where the immediate force was directed."

Paullo said he had experienced Hurricane Ike's impact in 2008, and he was never surprised by any of the generosity, selflessness or work put in by his neighbors.

He said the popular hashtags #wegotthis and #houstonstrong explain everything about the response.

"People in areas where you're prone to natural disasters kind of learn that something that grand is so big that you have to help each other," he said. "It's the human spirit. I'm sure that what played out in my neighborhood probably played out in many neighborhoods that were affected that weekend."

With water receding and power and other services beginning to return, Paullo said there's plenty of work left. But if the response thus far is any indication, he said he believes the neighborhood will make it through.

"It's all about attitude," he said. "It's just stuff. Times like this really bring out the best in good people, and we have a lot of them around here."

Meanwhile, back in Ohio, current Otterbein students are trying to help their fellow college students in Texas.

The university is one of 19 Ohio schools that have banded together in fundraising efforts, coordinating small donations by students to attempt to raise $5,000 for fellow students affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Jeremy Hall, a junior political science major, helped lead the fundraising efforts from Westerville.

While the $5,000 may make a small dent, he said the fact that the project is students helping students makes it mean a bit more.

"This idea of a student-to-student initiative is really awesome," he said.

Paullo said those kinds of efforts are well-received in Texas, and mark a welcome change from simply giving to the American Red Cross or other large and well-funded charities.

"Some people want to contribute something that's more focused to a group they can relate to, and that's important, too," he said.

And for Hill and others who will never have to deal with a hurricane in Ohio, the response comes from the horror they know they'd feel in a similar situation.

"Given that most of us are from Ohio, dealing with a hurricane isn't something that's popped into many of our heads," he said. "But seeing the images ... and seeing that devastation has a lot to do with it.

"You think about what would happen if we went back to school and the residence hall we were supposed to be in was under 8 feet of water," he said.

The GoFundMe page for the fundraiser is approaching the group's $5,000 goal.

For more information and a link to the page, visit Otterbein.edu.

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