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Hauling and Helping

Donations sit in warehouses around the country.  Goods are “staged” in centers all over the nation.  How exactly do these goods get from the central points of distribution to the people and animals that need them?  Here’s how…

By Mark Proulx - Special to GCN  4/21/06

Christina Davis is used to hauling large loads all over the country.  When I say large, I mean large.  Imagine having to work out the details of trucking a C130 airplane across country?

After Katrina, Christina was contacted by some people to help haul hay down to the Gulf Coast.  Within a very short amount of time of accepting the volunteer job, this one load became six loads very quickly.  With the hauling of hay came the requests for more hay.  Then there was the actually standing close to some animals that were thinning and dying from starvation.  In a very short few months, Christina knew that it was time to put something into place that did not exist.

“There’s no mechanism in government to fund transportation,” Chistina related to me over the phone.  “Volunteer groups have to go through a grueling process and procedures to petition the government in order to get grants and monies to pay for each of these small loads.  The problem with this is that groups who want to help have to continually petition the government for little bits of monies to pay for each of the loads.  It takes a long time to get the money and it may be too late by the time the monies get there.  I knew I needed to do something.”

Chistina started putting more and more time into looking for donations to be hauled across the country for the disaster-ridden Gulf Coast.  As she did so, she also found that there were a good amount of truckers willing to haul the donations.  What was missing was a way to put the haulers in touch with what needed to be hauled.  Hearing about her idea to begin putting together the donations with truckers, the USRED (US Rural Economic Development) contacted her and asked if she could present a business plan for turning her assistance into a real-live non-profit organization that would tackle the need to transport donations across the country.  She could hardly say no.

“We are attempting to get funds from the Humane Society US to help us with funds to deliver much needed hay to animals all over the Gulf Coast.  We have already made numerous trips to Gulfport and Bay St. Louis to deliver dog food.  We know of hay that is staged in warehouses all over the US and I had to find a way to get that hay to the animals who needed it desperately.

“The way this all started was people wanted us to haul some hay.  We did and soon we had volunteers working the phones and emails, and soon we had six loads to haul.  We realized that we needed a way to communicate better, so we started a discussion group in Yahoo! Groups.  A joke of mine was to say ‘hey!’ to everyone, so since we were hauling hay, our group turned into the Hay There discussion forum.  After a while it grew to the point where we weren’t getting any work done because this donations and trucking thing was turning into a life of its own.  Pretty soon I had to beg my truckers to come back so we could get some of our own hauling done.

“Within a couple of months, we were contacted by the USRED to put together a business plan and turn this into a realistic non-profit organization.  We knew that this was getting big, so we decided we needed a huge database online to cover all the truckers and donations and staging sites around the country.  I can’t tell you how much fun this has been helping people all over the country, but I really look forward to getting up in the morning now thinking ‘okay…who needs my help today?’”

Christina has now put together a simple – but sophisticated – website (www.freehaulnpc.org), a legitimate 501(c)(3) organization that helps bridge the gap between donated goods and the truckers willing to haul them.  They have a complete and comprehensive database that can be browsed to find different goods that need transporting.  Christina hopes that this will turn into the premier website for transporting all donated goods across the country.  She has applied for a hefty grant that will allow her organization to go from hauling now about $250,000 worth of goods a year to over $1 million worth of donations a year within three years.

Truckers are encouraged to check the site, leave messages in the forum and actually register to haul goods.  Donors may register to leave information about goods that need to be hauled.  People who wish to donate a tax deductible amount to paying for getting goods to people and animals in need may also use PayPal and contribute all through the same website.  People who want to can contribute and sponsor the exact load they want to help get transported all through her website database.  Chistina’s group has been largely responsible for hauling the donated goods from World Care in Tucson, AZ to Bay St. Louis, and she looks forward to delivering much more to that entire Gulf Coast, once their needs are published.  Look for Gulf Coast News to begin publishing as many of the Coast’s cities’ needs lists as soon as they are available.

For more information, feel free to visit www.freehaulnpc.org, register and communicate directly to Christina. 

About the author:
Mark Proulx family has deep roots in Bay St. Louis and Hancock County. He currently lives in Deerfield, Florida. He has a communications background in journalism and graduated from USM in 1982 but returned to school later and works now as a bio-engineer.. His father retired from the Air Force and was stationed once at Keesler.

Contact the author: mxpowerdive@hotmail.com


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