Donations pour in to Bel Air fire company for Harvey victims

Donations started coming Tuesday night and poured in all day Wednesday — to the point where they had to be cut off around 8 p.m. — as residents from Harford County and beyond are doing what they can to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area of Texas.

Other Harford County businesses are holding collection drives as well. All six branches of The Mill, including the ones in Bel Air, Black Horse and Whiteford in Harford County, will be collecting donations through Sept. 8. Jarrettsville Creamery will be collecting until Sept. 9, but a truck will be onsite from 3 to 9 p.m. on Sunday to receive donations.

On Thursday afternoon, the dozens of pallets of goods — cases of water and other beverages, toiletries, diapers and non-perishable foods — were being loaded onto a tractor trailer behind Bel Air Fire Company’s main station on Hickory Avenue.

The trailer, and three others, are being supplied by PeterBilt of Baltimore and are expected to leave Monday to deliver the donations to the Houston Food Bank, organizer Kristine Davis said.

As she waited for the trailer Thursday afternoon, Davis sat out behind the fire company, looking at all the donations.

“I think it’s awesome,” Davis said. “I couldn’t believe the amount of people who want to give to people they don’t know.”

Early in the day Wednesday, cars were pulling up to the front of the firehouse, but as the day went on and more and more people arrived, volunteers created a drop-off line to the rear, with as many as two cars side by side at a time, and backed all the way out to Hickory Avenue.

Dozens of people volunteered, as did local businesses, BAVFC Vice President Joe Rutherford said.

Courtland Hardware provided pallets and a forklift; MedStar Bel Air provided dinner for the volunteers; Home Depot donated shrink wrap; ShopRite of Bel Air provided boxes; and the Town of Bel Air supplied a skid loader and forklift. Volunteers came from other fire companies as well as the Bel Air Police Explorers.

Davis said she couldn’t have done it without the help of the volunteers.

“If I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t have gotten through today, that’s for sure,” Davis said.

Constant stream of donations

An entire bay of Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company’s main station on Hickory Avenue was nearly full of donated goods by noon Wednesday.

“It’s been phenomenal and overwhelming,” Davis said. “I’m not surprised because the citizens of this county always pull together to try and help out.”

Cases and cases of water are lined up in the front of the bay, with non-perishable food, cat and dog food, toiletries and large medical items stacked along the wall all the way to the back of the station.

Paula Goodman and her children, Jackson, 4, and McKenzie, 1, drove up from Owings Mills to drop off baby food and three cases of water.

Goodman, whose family moved to Maryland Aug. 1 from the Houston area, knows what it’s like to deal with the type of devastation Texas residents are experiencing.

“We know exactly how bad it can get,” Goodman said. She and her family were in Texas during severe flooding on Memorial Day several years ago.

She loved living in Texas and misses it, but is grateful she’s not there.

“We just missed everything. The eye of the storm went directly over our old house,” Goodman said. “It’s scary to think about it, having the kids, a dog, my husband.”

The area where her husband worked, Pearland, was shut down, she said, and no one was allowed in or out. And one of his former co-workers had 1 1/2 feet of water in his house. One of her friends, who lived in an apartment building, had to camp out in a tent on the third floor of the complex because water levels were so high. Her friend woke up to water seeping into the tent.

“That’s scary,” Goodman said.

Carol Raynor, of Glen Arm, a nurse at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air, dropped off a wheelchair she had been planning to refurbish.

“But it’s a better use to them than to keep it in the house an indefinite amount of time,” Raynor said.

Raynor said she is amazed by the devastation in Texas.

“I just can’t imagine,” she said. “I just physically can’t imagine.”

All day long

Chris Jandreau arrived around 10 a.m. Wednesday in a Pepsi tractor-trailer, filled with drinks to be shipped to Texas.

The trailer contained 16 pallets of water, soft drinks and energy drinks — an estimated 27,000 individual bottles of beverages.

They were donated by the Connellee family, which owns the Pepsi bottling plant in Havre de Grace. Jandreau is a sales manager there.

Employees from Union Hospital in Elkton, where Fallston Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Company volunteer Susan Pafel is an emergency tech, banded together and donated six pallets of supplies, including dozens of boxes of diapers as well as baby wipes, food, toiletries and other items.

“It was mentioned at work, and it just went from there,” Pafel, who was helping unload vehicles as they dropped off their donations, said.

“I’m here helping out for a good cause,” she said. “Our fire departments work well together, helping each other out.”

About a dozen or so volunteers were helping unload the cars, vans and trucks that came by in a steady stream all day.

Stephanie France, of Bel Air, and her children, Sophia, 7, and Kingston, 2, dropped off some bags of supplies.

France said they talked about the damage from Harvey during dinner the night before and showed the kids some pictures of the damage. Then they decided to help.

They were dropping off items “because people don’t have food and you need food to stay alive,” Sophia said.

Martha Joines and her daughter, Jennifer, who live in Conowingo in Cecil County, brought at least 40 boxes of cereal.

“We’re couponers, so we get a lot of stuff for free, and we were looking for a place to take it and this opportunity just came up,” Martha Joines said.

Martha’s brother lives close to Austin, Texas, and they have been keeping a close eye on the damage.

“We’re praying for all those people,” Jennifer Joines said.

Bruce Lyons of Darlington Volunteer Fire Company made two trips to drop off donations Wednesday.

He filled his cart, but didn’t spend as much as he had wanted to, so he dropped off the first truckload and went back to Redner’s in Hickory to refill.

His son-in-law is in the National Guard based at Edgewood and is on standby.

“They could deploy to Texas. If he’s going to be down there, he needs to eat something,” Lyons said, looking around at the stacks of donations. “This is great. I just hope everybody will do what they can.”

It’s not just food and toiletries that are needed. Aberdeen Lions Club member Mark Schlottman donated 25 walkers to go to Texas.

His organization has a medical loan closet of all types of supplies that are typically donated to people in need.

“That could be us,” Schlottman said. “All Lions, our motto is ‘We serve.’ It doesn’t matter if it’s Texas or Bangladesh, we help.”

Other collections

The Mill stores are working with Alan Moyer, who volunteered to drive a truck to Houston to drop off donations, said Carrie House, director of marketing for the Mill.

Their collection will run at all stores through Sept. 8 during business hours — 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The Bel Air store is open Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Moyer is scheduled to leave for the George R. Convention Center in Houston on Sept. 15, House said.

He came into the Whiteford store and offered to drive the items down. He has a truck and he’s retired, House said.

Jarrettsville Creamery is making an event out of the donations, with a truck at the eatery on Sunday to collect items.

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