'Logistical nightmare' getting hurricane donations where they're needed

Junior Gonzalez
York Dispatch
  • Bailey Coach owner John Bailey said his relief effort is on pause after overwhelming support.
  • Monetary donations are being encouraged to avoid a slowdown in aid delivery, according to relief organizers.
  • You can donate through everyday purchases, such as coffee at Rutter's.


When John Bailey announced his effort to raise supplies to support those affected by Hurricane Harvey, he couldn’t believe the outpouring of support from York countians.

Bailey Coach Trailways owner John Bailey takes a call while in the planning stages of sending three coaches to Texas on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. Earlier in the day, FEMA contacted the business to see if it could help with transportation during the Texas flooding. Bill Kalina photo

“In eight days we filled 11 tractor-trailers," he said. "It’s incredible.”

In all, he estimates about 800,000 pounds of goods were donated by local schools, small businesses, places of worship and individuals.

But any additional relief work will have to continue at higher levels at agencies, Bailey said, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the American Red Cross.

That’s because the charitable donations sparked by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, back to back, have overwhelmed Bailey and his business, Bailey Coach Trailways.

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“Logistically, I couldn’t handle it anymore,” he said. “We couldn’t clean (our buses) for a couple of days because of space.”

After a massive amount of supply donations, relief organizers at the Red Cross and other agencies say they are running out of space and are encouraging donors to give monetarily to continue more efficient aid efforts.

Bailey began coordinating with FEMA to take supplies where they were needed most after Harvey and Irma.

At FEMA’s behest, Bailey dispatched three buses to Orangeburg, South Carolina, soon after Labor Day, when initial predictions had Irma turning north toward the Carolinas, but then FEMA requested the trailers be moved in a different location in South Carolina on Friday, Sept. 8.

However, the trailers returned to York full with supplies this week.

“There was no place to offload the supplies (in South Carolina),” Bailey said.

While he waits for further direction from FEMA, Bailey plans to split the supplies between the storms, with eight tractor-trailer loads planned for dispatch to Dallas and three to be sent to Florida.

Four tractor-trailers departed for Dallas on Tuesday, Sept. 12, according to Bailey.

Bailey Coach Trailways employee Bobby Hershberger works inside a motor coach cargo hold while loading cases of water Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. Earlier in the day, FEMA contacted the business to see if it could help with transportation during the Texas flooding. Owner John Bailey agreed to send three coaches.  Bill Kalina photo

Help continues: Several local companies and organizations have committed to donate funds to hurricane relief by way of the American Red Cross.

Rutter’s has committed to donate 10 cents from every cup of coffee sold through Oct. 1 as well as raise funds through promotional canisters to the American Red Cross in its disaster relief efforts, according to Rutter’s chief customer officer Derek Gaskins.

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The convenience store chain helped fill trucks from United Natural Foods with Rutter’s bottled water as well as snacks from Martin’s Chips to deliver to those affected by Hurricane Harvey, according to Gaskins.

Kim Maiolo, director of communications and marketing at the American Red Cross of Central Pennsylvania, said while supplies are great to get to those in need, sending them from places as far as York County can delay the goods’ delivery as well as strain the Red Cross’ infrastructure.

Chris Weidenhammer, the Red Cross emergency regional director and Fairview Township fire chief, called the physical donations "a logistical nightmare" for emergency responders. 

"We just don't have the warehouse storage for it," he said.

The most effective way to help is through a financial donation with an indication of where you would like the funds to go, according to Maiolo.

For example, if you are donating with a check, note “Hurricane Harvey” or “Hurricane Irma” in the memo line. Write “disaster relief” in the memo line if you’d like the funds to go toward assistance for both storms as well as other disaster relief around the world from the Red Cross.

Donor fatigue? Maiolo said she has not seen a dip in help, monetarily or personally.

“People were so generous the first time around” after Harvey, Maiolo said.

“Our phones were ringing off the hook,” she added, “but I don’t think there’s any sort of lack of generosity ... or volunteer fatigue.”

Bailey Coach Trailways employee Bobby Hershberger prepares to load cases of water into a coach Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. Earlier in the day, FEMA contacted the business to see if it could help with transportation during the Texas flooding. Owner John Bailey agreed to send three coaches.  Bill Kalina photo

She said the Red Cross is now holding a Shelter Fundamentals Bootcamp for new volunteers willing to give their time to those affected, but the Central Pennsylvania chapter doesn’t plan to send more people out anytime soon.

“There are more and more volunteers from (affected areas) starting to help now,” Maiolo said. “It doesn’t make much sense to send people from our area at this point.”

Bailey agreed.

“I think we’ve all had enough and we need to recuperate from the damage,” he said.

He has a home in Florida just 10 miles north of Naples and said he is curious to see how the hurricane shutters he installed three years ago held up during Irma.

After Bailey’s 11 tractor-trailers deliver supplies, Bailey plans to leave further relief efforts to the professionals.

While he said “God gave me the tools” to pull off such a supply drive, he has to get back to work.

“I need to get back to my business,” he said.

To donate to the American Red Cross Hurricane Irma relief, visit the Red Cross website at www.redcross.org or text IRMA to 90999 to donate $10.