Locals Pitch In For Hurricane Harvey Relief

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Storms

Chatham Firefighter James Young helped organize the donations collected for victims of Hurricane Harvey. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

CHATHAM Even as Florida residents brace for a potentially catastrophic strike from Hurricane Irma, local residents are doing what they can to ease human suffering in Texas from Hurricane Harvey.

A number of small-scale efforts are underway in various local churches, and a private citizen from Texas, who was visiting the Cape at the time of the storm, returned home with boxes of masks, gloves and other supplies donated by Ace Hardware in East Harwich. But the largest collection of relief supplies came from local firefighters.

Chatham Fire Lt. Justin Tavano organized a collection of supplies, working in conjunction with Brewster Firefighter Paul Brazil, who held a similar drive in that town. Eastham firefighters also joined the effort.

On Monday, every table in the training room at the Chatham Fire Station was covered in boxes of non-perishable foods, toiletries, laundry supplies, sunscreen, bug spray and hand sanitizer.

“We had enough to literally stuff the ambulance,” Tavano said. “It was packed to the gills. It was impressive.” All of the supplies were new and were items specifically requested by people in the disaster area.

“People stuck to the plan,” he said. “It looked like a pretty even distribution of everything that we asked for.”

The items were consolidated in a storage unit in Brewster before being sent south. “Initially it was going to be by plane, but now they think it's going to be too much,” Tavano said. A civic group in Brewster is reportedly paying for a moving truck and a driver to deliver the supplies to a center operated by the U.S. Coast Guard Eighth District, which covers Texas.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross has deployed 14 volunteers to Texas, one of whom returned from Texas Saturday and left for Florida Tuesday. To meet the demand for relief workers, the Red Cross is holding a “fast-track” training session this week in Fall River, and plans to offer a similar session in Hyannis next week, chapter Executive Director Hilary Greene said. Details will be posted at www.RedCross.org/MA/Hyannis.

Greene said the Red Cross is not accepting in-kind donations because of the time and expense required to sort, inspect, transport and distribute them. Financial donations are best, she said, because they give relief workers the flexibility to purchase the most-needed supplies. When used to purchase supplies close to the disaster area, those funds also stimulate the local economy, and they can be distributed equitably in a way that donated goods cannot.

People who want to purchase new supplies are encouraged to visit Amazon.com/RedCross, where they can either make a financial gift or they can purchase supplies specifically requested by relief workers. Items on that list earlier this week included insulated coolers, storage totes and nonperishable snacks. Relief officials have specifically requested that certain in-kind donations not be sent, like used clothing and blankets, which are expensive to process and may pose a health hazard.