Lost in the roar of press reports on major relief organizations’ efforts in response to Superstorm Sandy (who are doing wonderful things in their own right) a small organization is making important differences in victims’ everyday lives. Welcome to the world of the Fuel Relief Fund.
This organization has been quietly responding to major disasters since Hurricane Katrina. It provided diesel to critical response operations in Haiti after the devastating earthquake there. They passed out kerosene to Japanese survivors for home heating after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. They distributed bags of coal to residents in Van, Turkey last November after the major earthquake in that region.
And now they are on-scene at the heart of the wreckage left by Superstorm Sandy. It started last Tuesday when the Board of Directors of the non-profit, charitable organization decided response was needed and appropriate. Quickly after that a loaded fuel tanker was dispatched from Pacific Tank Lines in Riverside California. Ted Honcharik, owner of Pacific Tank Lines and a founding member of the Fuel Relief Fund, jumped on a plane to assess the situation in advance. It took 3 days for the tanker to get to the East Coast (drivers of hazardous materials trucks are restricted in their on-duty time) but once there action began quickly.
On Saturday the Fuel Relief Fund truck opened near a fire station in Hoboken, NJ. It dispensed free fuel to victims carrying 5 gallon fuel containers during daylight hours. The next day Fuel Relief Fund began dispensing in Staten Island, NY. Monday dispensing occurred in Long Branch, NJ.
In three days the Fuel Relief Fund has distributed gasoline and diesel in 5 gallon increments to over 1700 needy individuals. And they are helping by providing fuel to Red Cross, FEMA, National Guard and local emergency response vehicles. Today they are taking a "break" to refill their tanker truck. Tomorrow they will be in the Rockaway Beach, NY area, the visual focal point for the post-storm impacts.
Bill Lavin, a New Jersey fireman assisting Fuel Relief in Hoboken, had this to say about the response efforts taken from an open email he sent the organization, "When you first told me you had a tanker full of "free" fuel to distribute to those in greatest need, I never fully understood the impact you would have. Hoboken, NJ on Saturday (sic) was remarkable to hear the residents express surprise and gratitude that some people would be so thoughtful and generous as to drive across country and provide the most needed resource to them and at no cost.
"I couldn't help but noticing, there was a line for water 20 people long, a line for food 30 people deep, and then looked at the line for fuel which stretched 250 to 300 strong. Validating exactly what you told me, without fuel, not much else can get accomplished."
Help is arriving. Mansfield Oil, headquartered in Gainesville, GA is sending an addition tanker and volunteers to increase the relief efforts.
However, a tanker of fuel costs about $40,000 to load. Although over $150,000 has been contributed thus far, more is needed. People, companies or organizations can contribute directly by going to the Fuel Relief Fund web site, http://fuelrelieffund.org. That will help in continuing to "do the right thing".