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“I Will Help You”
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor
2017-09-06

            I will help you.  They are four very strong words that can bring relief to those in need.

            Less than two weeks ago, Hurricane Harvey hit Texas.  When all is said and

done, the Category-4 storm is expected to do more damage than any other natural disaster in U.S. history, surpassing Hurricane Katrina.

            By recent estimates, the storm has affected 24 million people from Texas to Louisiana.  To date, 50 of them have died.  More than 50-inches of rain has flooded areas of Texas and forced more than 40,000 people out of their homes.

            The total damage and devastation is still being uncovered and calculated – but it will get worse.

            It is at a times like this that people need to set their differences aside and adjust their priorities to include those who need help.

            People want to help but sometimes they need an avenue by which to channel that desire.  That's when people like Jenni Lavin step forward to organize just such an avenue.

            Jenni is the Director of LifeSpan Daycare Center in East Greenville. She thought it would be a good learning experience to setup a collection day, held this past Tuesday, at the center to allow the students to bring in donations for the hurricane victims.

            She posted the event on social media and made contact with Mike Merkel of Merkel's Shoes in Gilbertsville.  It was recently publicized that Merkel donated more than 800 pairs of shoes to the hurricane relief effort and would be delivering them to Texas in the near future.

            Merkel's Shoes was having a donation collection at their store and Mike had no problem agreeing to take the LifeSpan donations with him.

            Then, Jenni began noticing that parents were posting photos of their children's shopping trips for donations and an excitement began to generate among the families.  It looked like the charitable event could be bigger than expected.  According to Jenni the kids were "really excited to help out."  She worried that people might show up to donate on Tuesday and that the effort could become overwhelmed by shear volume.

            With the premonition of a larger-than-life turnout, she began to think about enlisting extra help.  That's when hubby James Lavin, a corporal with the Upper Perk Police Department said "I will help you."

            With that Jenni had an eager helper, and well-known community advocate, to lend a hand in organizing and running the collection.

            James suggested that they hold a collection on Labor Day in the Upper Perk Police Department parking lot to help reduce the amount that might be collected on Tuesday at the daycare center.

            So he posted the Labor Day donation collection event on the Facebook page of the Upper Perk Police Department and the message did its job.

            From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. the parking lot of the police department saw a constant flow of people bringing in donations – diapers, canned and dry foods, water, and more.  James dutifully worked the grill, serving free hot dogs, while stopping only to help unload donations from vehicles.

            There were other volunteers who stopped in off-and-on to help out, and there didn't seem to be a of shortage willing helpers.

            It was reminiscent of the 1992 large-scale local effort that saw an outpouring of contributions from the community to help the victims of Hurricane Andrew.  Under the organizational efforts of then Red Hill journalist (and Red Hill's future Mayor), Vic Attardo, local government officials, employees, police officers, and a host of other volunteers collected and sorted donated items. 

            Using Pennsburg's Civic Building as a staging area to sort the items, then loading the nearly 50,000 pounds of relief items into two large box trucks, donated by Ryder Trucks.  Four area volunteers then drove the trucks to Florida.

            For the Hurricane Harvey effort, there were no large box-trucks available for Jenni so she secured a trailer from her uncle, but it was plain see that from the outpouring of support, it wouldn't come close to being large enough.

            Two more trailers were brought in.  Arriving with the moving-storage units were Mike and Brooke Merkel.  Already engulfed with their own project in the Gilbertsville area, the two made time to help out here in the Upper Perkiomen Valley.

            This writer caught up with Mike who told me that he now expects to take more than 1,000 pairs of shoes to Texas later this week!

            The Merkels experienced the same kind of pleasant surprise at the generosity of area people when given the opportunity to help.

            Mike said that all of the items collected at his store and in Pennsburg and East Greenville would be taken to the Pheasantland Roller Rink (which he owns) for sorting-out and to be loaded later this week for the long trip.

            The 10,000 square-foot skating-rink is closed till September 15 and made for a great place to warehouse the items.  He and some family and friends will be towing the trailers with pick-up trucks to the Lone-Star State.

            As the first and second trailers were filled, and the local volunteers began loading trailer number three, I asked Mike about the volume of donations and what would happen if he couldn't fit all the items in the trailers for delivery this week.

            Mike simply said, "If we have too much to fit into the trailers, we'll come back and do it again."

            The folks in the Gulf Coast area devastated by Hurricane Harvey will surely appreciate the efforts of Mike and Jenni, and others all over the United States who took the time and had the initiative to organize these giving events.

            And, this writer is certain that people like Jenni and Mike appreciate all the help they received from family, friends and others.

            I also think that they received a gift for their efforts; they found friends they always had but never knew.


 

 

 

 

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