I LOVE Vermont – thousands donate to hurricane relief drop off centers

update: In total, Vermonters filled up 34 tractor trailers, which arrived in Gulfport Mississippi over Labor Day weekend.

I witnessed the most amazing thing yesterday. In one day, thousands upon thousands of Vermonters donated amazing amounts of needed supplies for victims of Katrina. Here are two stories about it. One from the Burlington Free Press the other from Vermont Public Radio.

Here is my own account of what I saw at the local Costco and at one of the drop off centers.

After packing up a bunch of those geeky t-shirts and some other stuff that I have hardly ever or just never worn, I went to Costco. As I am not a member, they gave me a one day pass. The parking lot at Costco was completely packed, hundreds of cars at about 2 in the afternoon.

Inside, though there were plenty of people just doing their regular shopping, it was easy to spot the many folks who were shopping for the hurricane victims. And there were a LOT of them!! They had carts loaded with huge bags of dog food, cases and cases of canned goods, diapers and more. Armed with my credit card as well as promised contributions from Canadian Sharepoint geek, Michael Reinhart and VTdotNET user group member, Dan Smith, I went shopping. It was addictive. I loaded up a cart and then a “flat bed”, stood in line with many others who were buying the similar requested items and then with help from James, a Costco employee who was reminiscing about packing up items for soldiers in Iraq, loaded everything into my SUV which I nearly filled. A good feeling. I obviously stopped shopping just on time.

I drove to Williston where one of the 10 drop off centers around the state was located. When I got off the highway, there were state troopers directing traffic, which was backed up and barely moving, with long periods of no movement at all. When I got closer to the drop off point, I saw another trooper signalling a long stream of cars into the parking lot. It had been like this all day. I finally got in there and was astonished, thrilled and elated at what I saw. Sprawled everywhere were various areas for each type of dontation – pet food, baby stuff, women’s clothes, hygiene, food, water, etc. Hundreds of volunteers, many just people who had come to drop stuff off or were just driving by and saw the activity, were organizing, sorting through, boxing up items and then loading up pallets. The pallets were then wrapped and moved into tractor trailers. The local paper said that 20 tractor trailers were hired for this job. I wonder if that will even be enough?

These photos don’t even come close to capturing what was going on.

The incoming cars were never-ending. I went and parked my car in a nearby parking lot and came back and jumped in. Another trooper and I brought about 20 grocery carts over from Dicks and we then used these to get cars emptied quickly so they could go and more could come. I then would run around dropping off items at the appropriate station and then go attack another car. “Ma’am, have you been emptied yet?” was the catch phrase of the day.

Thousands and thousands of people were bringing donations in.

Everyone kept thanking each other. We thanked people for donations, they thanked us for helping. Everyone was feeling pretty good (for the moment). We had found SOMETHING we could do to help. We knew that this food and water and other items would be in people’s hands in one or two days. It was so tangible.

There were news cameras at Costco and at the drop off center. I can’t find any video links, but there are links at the top of this post to some news stories and my few meager pictures – oh how I wish Shelley had been there to capture the beauty of this.

One source for more info on how Vermonters can help is the Northern Vermont Red Cross website.

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