American Legion Dept. of Indiana Staff
On September 10th at approximately 9:10 a.m., Hurricane Irma made landfall in the lower Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm. At the same time in Indiana, the Hoosier Legion Family was already collecting supplies and monetary donations for hurricane relief.
Just a week earlier, the Department had filled a trailer full of supplies for survivors of Hurricane Harvey and transported it to Legion Post 490 in Houston for distribution, but things were about to get even worse.
With Irma on her way, a Hoosier Legionnaire from Post 64 in Indianapolis had an idea of how to get even more supplies to those who need it.
Legionnaire George Smith, who retired from Teamsters 135 thought he may be able to get a truck donated from his former employer.
Former District 11 Cmdr., Kenny Cooper said, “Well, George said he could get the truck and once that was green-lit, everything happened extremely fast”.
George called his former boss and President of Teamsters Local 135, Danny Barton.
Barton got to work and had a 53’ trailer delivered to the Department Headquarters. Teamsters Local 135 would also provide the rig to transport to Florida along with paying both the salary of the driver (Rick Smith) and fuel for the trip.
Now, all the Department staff had to do was fill it with Hurricane Relief supplies.
Department of Indiana Communications Director, Tim Sproles said, “It was a sobering experience when they first opened that trailer. It is absolutely huge. You could throw a football in there. We knew we had to get busy to fill this trailer up”.
It didn’t take long for donations to start coming in.
Sproles also said, “Donations trickled in at first, but once we started showing what people were bringing in on our social media site, people really kicked it into high gear”.
Timing for the collection of supplies couldn’t have worked out better.
While collecting donations throughout the week, the Department of Indiana was also ramping up for its annual Legion Day on September the 10th.
Department of Indiana Adjutant Will Henry said, “We knew we would have hundreds of Hoosier Legionnaires on hand for Legion Day, so we put out a call to action on social media, website, and mail-outs. If everyone at Legion Day brought in just a little donation, that would make a big Impact for those effected by these storms”.
On Legion Day alone, the Department raised over $16,000 and filled half of the trailer with donated goods.
Kenneth N. Dowden Post 64, where the idea for the trailer originated, donated $10,000 of that amount from their gaming fund and also paid to fill up the rest of the trailer with bottled water.
Department Cmdr. Marty Dzieglowicz said, “I think the outpouring of support from the Legion Family and the surrounding community shows how much the American Legion Department of Indiana can help not just Hoosiers in need, but others in need across the nation. We couldn’t be more pleased with Teamsters Local 135 and Post 64. They really went out of their way for this”.
The truck, filled with donated supplies, left Indiana on Wednesday September 13th and pulled into the Department of Florida’s Headquarters in Orlando, Florida on Thursday Afternoon.
The Department of Florida had been busy themselves. They set up supply points at American Legion Posts throughout the state near damaged areas, where volunteers would get supplies directly to those who needed it.
“They were functioning like a well-oiled machine”, said Sproles. “As soon as crates were taken inside, volunteers were breaking them down, separating the items and them loading them into trucks ready to head out”.
Florida Department Cmdr., Steve Shuga, said that staff knew they had to act fast.
He said, “We put an all-call within the local area to see if anyone was available to come in. Along with the Department staff, we had Legionnaires making their way in to help. It was a tremendous show of support from the Legion Family”.
With the donations from Indiana delivered, Commander Shuga also wants people to remember that there are still people in need.
He said, “This hurricane covered the entire state of Florida. There has been a lot of damage, power outages and a lot of provisions that have been exhausted. There are more people out there who need help, but with donations like the ones received from Indiana, these people can start to rebuild”.
The Department of Indiana is currently working to gather supplies for a second trip to Florida and local companies are already stepping up to donate.
Noblesville based company SMC Corporation of America donated water, dog food, diapers, baby wipes and nonperishable food.
Bacompt Systems Inc. out of Carmel donated three crates full of nonperishable meals.
With people in both Texas and Florida still recovering from these storms, the mission continues.
If you are interested in donating to the American Legion Department of Florida for Hurricane Relief, Click Here.
If you are interested in donating to the American Legion’s Nation Emergency Fund, Click Here.
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