BY JON CRONIN
Hamilton Beach residents still have vivid memories of the destruction that Hurricane Sandy laid at their doorsteps in 2012.
Because of this, the community has resolved not to let a cry for help go unnoticed. Roger Gendron, president of the Hamilton Beach Civic Association, posted on the group’s Facebook page on Aug. 28 that he wants to donate small essentials to the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
“We received help from a lot of people from across the country. It’s a way of paying back,” he said. “It’s not a hardship for anyone to donate.”
Initially, Gendron expected 10 or 12 boxes, but said that his call for donations has “turned into something a bit larger.”
Following Hamilton Beach’s annual Baby Parade last weekend, Gendron counted the boxes donated at the town’s volunteer fire house. He said that more than 75 boxes were donated.
Gendron is calling for donations of items that can help victims through a few hours, days or weeks.
“These people don’t need clothes,” he said. “They can’t worry about what they need in six months.”
Gendron said that he remembered seeing a photo of clothing in a landfill that was the result of overflow from Hurricane Sandy donations. He said that he doesn’t want to see items go to waste again.
He added that Hurricane Harvey victims need items that they can carry, such as diapers, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, underwear, socks, razors and shaving cream. He added that pets are the only family of some victims and while they need food, it would be better to donate to an organization that could provide it.
“It’s more time consuming to sort through clothes,” he said. “People who are working the relief centers need to focus. Will they need clothes? Most likely, but they don’t need them right now.”
On Sept. 10, Gendron and Andy Zych, the deputy chief of the West Hamilton Beach Fire Department, will load one of the department’s ambulances with the donations, drive 25 hours nonstop to Groesbeck, Texas, and hand over the donations to Groesbeck Rebuilds America before driving back to New York on Tuesday.
“We’re going to switch on and off and, hopefully, only stop for food and to stretch our legs,” Gendron said of the drive, adding that his wife and son will fly to Texas and then drive a few hours to join him in Groesbeck.
Groesbeck Rebuilds America started in 2007 as a project to help victims of a tornado in Greensburg, Kansas.
“Today, it’s grown into this phenomenal organization,” said Gendron.
The Groesbeck team aids victims of natural disasters and paints inspirational messages on green stars they cut from wood.
Currently there are more than 68,000 stars all over the world.
“We did some in Howard Beach,” he said.
Groesbeck Rebuilds America’s headquarters is about 250 miles north of Houston and functions as a distribution center.
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach), who represents Gendron’s district, spent time this week in Texas with former Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder to help victims of the hurricane. Gendron said his neighbors’ experiences in 2012 with Hurricane Sandy are valuable to those affected by Harvey.
“The experience we gained from Sandy is priceless, so they’re just paying it forward down there,” he said.