Lower Burrell boy, Tarentum moving company, Jefferson Twp. church all help hurricane victims
To help thousands of flood victims to cleanup after Hurricane Harvey, passing the Pine-Sol won't be enough.
A Lower Burrell boy, a Jefferson Township church and a Tarentum shipping company are collecting enough cleaning supplies to fill a tractor trailer headed to Texas later this month.
They are asking residents and businesses in the Alle-Kiski Valley to donate bleach, shovels, brooms, scrub brushes and a whole lot more to help residents clean and sanitize their homes of bacteria-filled floodwater.
At least 185,000 homes were damaged by Harvey, according to the latest tally from the Texas Department of Public Safety. But that number doesn't include heavily affected Beaumont and densely populated Houston, according to a recent Washington Post report.
“I started watching the news and they were doing a lot of cleaning up,” said Brayden Vickers, 10, of Lower Burrell. “A lot of stuff got dirty and you can't use it. So I bought gloves, mops and all sorts of stuff.”
Brayden is at 200 items and counting.
The boy has been asking family, friends, fellow fifth-graders at Burrell School District's Stewart Elementary School and his football teammates on the Lower Burrell Flyers Cadets.
Brayden joins several local efforts to collect cleaning supply donations, such as St. Luke's in Jefferson Township and Weleski Transfer in Tarentum.
Hurricane victims returning to flood-ravaged homes desperately need the cleaning supplies.
In fact, they are the most requested items from Texans, according to Jason Stanford, communications director for Mayor Steve Adler of Austin, who has been in contact with and helping mayors from towns devastated by Harvey.
“There's not enough cleaning supplies in Texas to take care of this job,” Stanford said, adding that Texans are “discovering they have the mother of all cleaning jobs.”
“Imagine having to scrub toxic sludge from all your appliances,” he said.
Weleski Transfer has heeded the call and is trying to fill a 53-foot-long trailer truck with the cleaning supplies scheduled to depart for San Antonio on Sept. 24 or 25.
“We want to be able to reach out and give back to people truly in need,” said Lynn Thompson, vice president of Weleski Transfer.
The Tarentum business also loaded a truck with essential supplies for victim of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The Texas Department of State Health Services has warned residents about the “biological hazards” in floodwaters, such as raw sewage and other contaminants. It is urging residents to disinfect their homes and objects contaminated by floodwater.
Rev. Barry Keurulainen of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Jefferson Township knows the importance of the cleaning supplies. He has been making arrangements with a coalition of churches in the Houston and San Antonio area.
St. Luke's is collecting items and is working with Weleski to fill up their trailer.
“This is when the church has to rise up with compassion,” said Keurulainen.
“Bleach is a critical thing,” he said. “Shovels and brooms are needed, but not just brooms — brooms that can push mud — coal shovels, garbage bags and more.”
Additionally, residents are in immediate need of baby cereal, formula powder and feminine hygiene products.
Among the locations that the church hopes to help are rural areas that might not get as many resources as the larger cities with the larger number of hurricane displacements.
Although organizations such as the Red Cross are trying to help victims, Keurulainen said, “they can't do it all.”
The local collection of cleaning supplies will complement Red Cross emergency services in Texas, according to Dan Tobin, spokesman for the American Red Cross of Western Pennsylvania.
“Once the floodwaters recede, you have so many groups and people coming together, and this brings out the best in everybody,” Tobin said.
So far, the Red Cross has given out more than 360,000 items in bulk distribution, including cleanup kits, coolers, diapers, toiletries and other items.