Twenty-four vans, costing $817,000, were donated by Chevrolet and will be fully outfitted with $180,000 worth of repair tools and equipment donated by Lowe’s and the Robert Bosch Tool Corp. at a Lowe’s in Charlotte, N.C.
Norman Johnson, president of Bosch Community Fund, said the company is also donating sustainable products, like tankless hot water heaters and solar thermal systems so people can “rebuild more sustainably,” reducing their bills and carbon foot print.
“This afternoon we have volunteers from our Habitat for Humanity affiliates in North Carolina that will be at the Lowe’s headquarters with tools waiting for us,” said Kip Scheidler, Habitat for Humanity International’s senior director of disaster response. “The volunteers will help load the tools into the 19 cargo vans.”
The other five vans will transport volunteers in and out of communities affected by Hurricane Sandy.
“There’s this emergency phase, when (the) Red Cross and the Salvation Army have been heavily involved,” Scheidler said. “Right on the heels of that is when we start helping families rebuild, so we’ve been patiently waiting for that time to come. It’s perfect timing. We’ll get up there and our volunteers are already ready and waiting for us.”
Some of the prime response locations are Staten Island, N.Y., and the Rockaways and Mammoth County, N.J.
About 48 people, two per van, are taking the trip to New York and New Jersey, Scheidler said.
“We heard from the affiliates up there that what they needed right now was to work on repairs as opposed to reconstruction,” Scheidler said. “They were talking about how the damage was very dispersed all different neighborhoods. We had to come up with an idea where we could get tools and volunteers in and out of communities as we do repairs.”
Araba Dowell, group manager of General Motors communications, said each vehicle will contain a minimum of 60 critical items, like power tools, hard hats and shovels.
“I’m excited because they’re needing as much help as possible right now to get those cities on their feet,” Dowell said. “Our hope is that these vehicles will be put to the test in those areas and really be able to get out there and deliver whatever the people need.”
And Scheidler said more donations are needed following the current phase of repair.
“Chevrolet, Lowe’s and Bosch have given us everything we need for repairs. Now we need to buy materials like the drywall, plywood and nails,” he said.
Anyone can find out how to help by visiting Habitat.org, and they can choose to volunteer first-hand or make donations.
Scheidler said 11 New York and New Jersey Habitat affiliates will be involved with the response and it was impossible to take more volunteers from Georgia because there is nowhere to stay.
“It’s not unlike [Hurricane] Katrina. Right now, there’s so many folks that can’t live in their houses that all the hotels are full,” he said. “We’re thinking in about four to six months, once a lot of repairs are done and families are back in, that’ll free up space and we can have volunteers from Georgia. We’ll be up there two, three, five years.”
He said Habitat is still helping families impacted by Katrina, six years later.
“We’ll be doing the same in New York and New Jersey,” Scheidler said. “We’re not going anywhere.”