Courtesy Graeme Smith
NEWPORT – As millions were struggling to dig out from the effect of Hurricane Sandy last week, Newport resident Graeme Smith took to the air, supplies in tow.
Over the course of two days, Smith, along with a three other local pilots, ran delivery flights to Long Island, their personal aircrafts filled with donations from Rhode Island residents and businesses who had heard about their mission over social media and in various news outlets.
Volunteering their flight time for Aerobridge, an NBAA–endorsed group of experienced aviation specialists who coordinate emergency aviation response during disasters, Smith and his team ran a total of eight runs, delivering over 2,000 pounds of supplies to the New York metro area.
At the receiving end was a local charity – Metro Ministries, who have been working hand-in-hand with FEMA to ensure that needed supplies get to those most impacted by the storm.
"The community really stepped up," Smith said earlier this week. Now, he's hoping they'll step up again.
If the weather holds, Smith said that his group is planning yet another compassion flight to New York on Friday.
Donations are being received at the Newport Airport.
The specific request for this mission is for sleeping bags and winter jackets only.
It's asked that all packaging be removed to save flying unnecessary weight, and that items be sealed in light waterproof plastic bags.
Smith is hoping to collect another 1,200 pounds of supplies by Friday. And with a Nor'easter and falling temperatures only adding on to the troubles of the area, winter jackets are especially appreciated.
Also, according to Smith, a new need that is arising is for feminine hygiene products – both pads and tampons, and there is an ever present need for diapers in all sizes.
He further reports that while potential donors may have seen appeals for batteries and flashlights, the need for these will have passed by Friday as power is being restored.
Finally, he says, "We are constantly asked, but please - no toys. The REAL need is to keep people warm and alive in coats and sleeping bags. Toys can follow over time."
During their first appeal, a number of island businesses and roughly 60 residents, many of whom wished to remain anonymous, responded to the call.
Anyone wishing to donate is asked to remove all surplus packaging and repack goods in clear or white plastic trash style bags to keep them clean and dry. (Black trash bags are hard to see what is in them for stowing and distribution.)
Also, Smith sends along the following tips:
- Compress as much air out of the bags as you can before tying them. ESPECIALLY Sleeping bags. Try and compress them down to firm solid blocks. We can fit more in that way.
- Keep bag weights to units of around 5lb, 10lb, 15lb, 20lbs Bigger heavier bags can be problematic as we try and distribute weight evenly in the aircraft so it flies correctly – This is a safety of flight issue. .
- Please accurately weigh and mark the bags with their weights. This is also a Safety of Flight issue. The pilot depends on you getting these numbers correct so aircraft do not fly overloaded which is dangerous.
Bring goods to the Airport Building at Newport State Airport, at 211 Airport Rd., in Middletown between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. any day this week.
Enter through the small glass door on the side of the building and immediately on your left is a large penned off area where you can leave goods under a sign. The drop dead time for bringing goods is Friday morning at 9 a.m.
The following are just some of the businesses who contributed to the group's first effort:
D F Dwyer - Newport
Newport Polo Club - Portsmouth
Carnegie Abbey Club - Portsmouth
Karns Law Group - Middletown
Women of St Peter’s Church - Newport
Law Office of Deborah Kohl (Fall River, Mass.)
Terry Miller Associates - Newport
Koziara, O’Reilly & Skuncik - Newport
Chase Farms – Portsmouth - Newport
Potter and Company - Newport
Helly Hansen - Newport
Stalise – Portsmouth
Belgravia Imports – Portsmouth
Media Pro International – Newport
Wildhorsefeathers – Portsmouth
Law Office of Katherine N. James-Bowers - Newport