NORWICH – When Norwich resident David Francis saw his friend on Facebook, Joel Viertel, in Texas putting in a serious effort to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey, Francis wanted to know what he could do to help.
“Joel and I have been Facebook friends for some time now, and when I saw what he was doing, I asked myself, 'What can we do to help?'” said Francis. “The beauty of Joel is Joel gets the stuff to the people who need it.”
Within 48-hours of this notion, a supplies drive has been organized for donations to be made in Norwich this Saturday, September 10.
Francis says people who want to help can drop-off supplies at Norwich Elk's Club from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Other drop-off locations include the Norwich Dunkin' Donuts, the Norwich Lowes, and the Norwich Tractor Supply.
“The problem we're having down here is people are loading up trailers, driving to the coast, and they get down there and a lot of the times the people are like, 'I don't need that, I'm sorry, I can't take this,' but I'm doing a targeted approach,” said Viertel.
“This is going to be a long term thing as the recovery process goes on. I'm not coming to these places to hang out, I'm on a mission: drop off the supplies, and get out of the way.”
Viertel says his goal is to establish a distribution center in Albany, TX stocked with supplies that will be of use to the affected people of Texas as time goes on.
“People ask us, 'Why would we be sending stuff to Albany, TX instead of right to Houston?' Well, because the people from Houston don't want you sending your stuff right in there,” said Veirtel.
Working with Emergency Operation Centers (EOC) from the coastal towns and cities, Viertel says the goal is to remain organized and targeted so that the donated supplies are used in the most efficient ways possible.
“So if [the EOCs] call me and say, 'Joel, we need this much x, this much y, this much z,' I can look at our inventory and tell them, 'I have that, give me an hour and I'll have this trailer loaded and either me or somebody will be hotshotting these products to you within eight hours,'” said Viertel.
“That may seem like a long time to somebody who can drive across their state in a couple hours, but not in Texas.”
Another organization aiding Viertel's efforts is 501(c)(3) non-profit, the Royal Lao Airborne Scouts, where Viertel is Staff Sergeant.
“The need for donations could never be greater than now in the wake of Hurricane Harvey,” states a release from the 1st Scout Brigade News. “Every dime donated to RLA Scouts goes directly towards advancing the capabilities of our volunteers on the ground for search and rescues, shelter resupply, post-disaster recovery, and much more.”
To donate to the Royal Lao Airborne Scouts, visit rlascouts.org.
Items in need are currently: bleach, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, cleaning products, toiletries, fans, tools, among other things. Viertel says it's important to consider the distance these items will be travelling, and so the lighter/smaller the supplies, the better.
Donations made at the supplies drive Norwich this Saturday will be shipped down via truck to Albany, TX, where Viertel says he will ensure they are delivered to those who need it most.
Members of the Royal Lao Airborne Scouts dropping off pallets of water to the Texas Baptist Men's Association. Staff Sergeant Joel Viertel is pictured second from the right.