Never underestimate the power of someone willing to help. Nearly four months ago KHOU 11 News showed you cellphone video of Willie Rios using his John Deere tractor to rescue more than 200 of his neighbors from Harvey floodwater. Rios’ story struck a chord with many viewers.
“I’ve got about 11 people on speed dial,” said Rios. “We got so much help.”
Rios has spent the last few months connecting with people throughout Harris County who are willing to use their own heavy-machinery, like tractors, to rescue people during a flood.
And after we reported that Rios' John Deere tractor was damaged from taking in five feet of water, the company offered to help.
“Public relations and the CEO of John Deere and Doggett Equipment they called me right away,” said Rios “John Deere went through and they did about $16,000 worth of repairs.”
Viewer Tim O’Brien from Jasper, Indiana mailed KHOU 11 a letter and a $1,000 donation designated for Rios.
"Willie Rios is a hero for saving 200+ lives. Please him give him the following check towards his John Deere repairs. Thank you and God bless him," O'Brien wrote.
“That’s amazing,” Rios said. “It’s a long ways away to help out, but there’s good people everywhere.”
The City of South Houston is surrounded by good people. Young children crafted cards for the 37-year old city council member. The children thanked him for saving them the night of August 26.
Rios is now storing those messages of gratitude in his family’s safe to make sure they don’t get damaged.
“I just did what had to be done. I’m not a hero, by no means,” said Rios. “I’ll do it again for people. I think the real heroes are the ones out there rebuilding and trying to get through life with what little bit of money they have or don’t have.”
Rios says about 85% of the city of South Houston was damaged by Harvey. About 21,000 people live within the 3.4 square miles of the city. Rios says about 40% of the community is in the middle of repairs. Some families don’t have insurance to lean on, others lost their homes entirely. City Hall flooded and staff are currently working out of two double-wide trailers.
Rios says he plans to use the $1,000 donation to adopt a family this holiday season.
“You know, kind of the gift that keeps on giving.”