Americans on the East Coast still need relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Thanks to the idea of a retired Wind Lake firefighter and the generosity of residents from nearby and across the state, hundreds of pounds of supplies will be delivered to Toms River, New Jersey, by Friday.
Bruce Bowen and his nephew, Adam Peterson, were just hanging out on Halloween when they got to talking about how much was needed in New Jersey and New York after Hurricane Sandy swept away the lives of so many people.
The two plan to leave Wednesday and drive in hitches to the East Coast and Toms River. There's still a little room left in their trailer for last-minute donations.
"It was a really fast discussion," Bowen said Monday. "We talked about how much help everyone needs out there and thought about how we could get the word out that we were going to drive stuff our there."
Big help from communities large and small
So, that's what they're doing. , plus a big boost from a Wauwatosa woman, Bowen and Peterson will drive the goods out to Toms River in a trailer and truck donated by Tom's Trailers in Menomonee Falls, and Peterson Express, LLC, in Waterford, respectively.
"We called around to a lot of businesses for trailers, and Tom's was the only one who refused to consider anything other than donating," Bowen said.
And it's not a small trailer, either, he added. At 24 feet long, 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide, it's a good size – and it's already three-quarters of the way full.
Peterson – fortuitiously, a truck driver for Peterson Express – procured the heavy-duty pickup to tow the trailer.
"Yeah, there was never a question from my company, either," he said.
Putting the face of need on Facebook
Bowen and Peterson got big time help from Facebook, too. They put together a flyer that they posted on the social media site and sent it to a few friends they knew in other communities.
Shannon Courville Heit from Wauwatosa saw the flyer in her news feed. According to Bowen, she was also gathering donations to ship, but the price was prohibitive.
Heit touched base with Bowen and Peterson, arranged to have them pick up what she had, and then she got to work raising money through bake sales to help defray the costs of the trip.
"What Shannon did was huge," Bowen said. "She raised a lot of money to help us with our fuel costs."
Tosa connection leads to New Jersey connection
Connecting with Heit also led to a connection with Gemma MacCarrick, an elementary schoolteacher in Toms River, which is how the guys decided on that as their destination.
"This whole thing is amazing, from the outpouring of giving to connecting with Gemma so the donations go directly to the people who need them right away," Bowen said. "Toms River is in one of the most affected areas, so they really need the stuff we're bringing."
South Shore firefighter Jason Caira was Bowen's contact in Racine County.
"This is a good thing to do," Caira said. "I'm happy we could play a part in helping the residents out east."
Caira worked with Sturtevant officials to use Village Hall as a collection point, and on Monday, Bowen and Peterson stopped by on their way to the Somers Fire Department, another collection point. Two weeks ago, from Green Bay, they hauled away a big SUV stuffed from the front seat to the ceiling of the cargo area, Peterson said.
"This is bigger than we'd thought it'd be. The outpouring of giving has been amazing," he added. "This has really spread through Facebook and word-of-mouth, which makes it more amazing."