ELMSDALE: The horn on the Armour Transportation truck honked as it made its’ way out onto Highway 2 from Tot’s Academy in Enfield as more than a handful of people braved the cold, frostbite-threatening weather Feb. 2-jumping for joy at the truck’s departure.
It was a group of dedicated volunteers with 10,000 Coats, headed up by Tina Ross, who packed the hauler full of more than 100 boxes filled with winter jackets. The jackets were destined for the warehouse of New York Cares in Brooklyn, N.Y., and then the community of Lindenhurst, Long Island, N.Y. which was among the hardest hit cities when Superstorm Sandy came through.
Assisting with the loading of the boxes onto the truck were several employees of the Elmsdale Pharmasave, representing the six locations that accepted winter coats as part of the project.
Krista Oikle, an employee with Tommy Hilfiger in Dartmouth Crossing, was also on hand representing the Tommy Hilfiger stores (PVH Canada) that came on board to help Ross, owner of Elmsdale Design and Print.
“Its’ Christmas morning to me,” exclaimed a very excitable Ross, who didn’t mind the cold one bit. “I’m so happy.”
She was hopeful of getting photos from New York Cares and the people who received the coats to show who ended up getting their coats.
The shipment to the New York Cares almost did not happen-until Armour Transportation contacted Ross saying they would ship the coats. On the same day, PVH Canada said if Ross could not get anyone, they too would ship the coats. Ross had brokers on both sides of the borders for the shipments-she was just missing a shipper.
“We only found out last week (week of Jan. 28) that Armour was going to do our transportation, so I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it,” said Ross. “I’m so thrilled that they’re going because they need them right now.
“I can’t really say enough how thrilling it is to see those doors close on that truck. I’m pretty happy, I’m tired as hell, but I’m pretty happy.”
Ross-taking a break from loading the jackets to speak to The Weekly Press-praised everyone for all the help they provided her along the way.
“We had help from people in New York, from three provinces in Canada, and people are watching this story from around the world,” she said. “This story tells you that one person with an idea can make a difference and can help. If you think you can help, the only advice I can give you is contact someone first to see what they need because they can’t accept unsolicited donations, and it’s causing a backlog.
“Knowing that we have a place for these coats to go; that there’s a need for them in the community; and that we know the name of the community, Lindenhurst, Long Island. I’m looking for more communities that need help as well. I’d like to continue to help people as long as I can get donations.
The six Pharmasave locations housed drop-off bins during the coat drive, and coats were collected during the East Hants Christmas Parade. The Irving Big Stop, Beaver Bank Guardian and Beaver Bank-Kinsac Community Centre were also a drop off location for coats, just to name a few.
The coats were originally destined strictly for the New York Cares’ warehouse, but then Ross was contacted by someone from Lindenhurst asking that the coats go there. After checking with NY Cares, it was agreed the coats could go to that location.
“I googled ‘Hurricane Sandy Aid’, and one of the places was called Lindenhurst, Camp Bulldog, where some family members started cooking food for people in their driveway,” she explained. “It morphed into where they went to a location that stuff is badly needed, and now they’re open four days a week for four hours a day in a wedding tent, providing hot meals, emergency information to homeowners, and accepting materials such as dental and hygiene care, and anything else.
“When I started to search Camp Bulldog, Adopt-A-House heard about us and contacted me, and asked if they could have our coats, and distribute them to much needed families. I told them to contact NY Cares and if they’re not spoken for, then we’d be thrilled for them to have the coats because they’re the exact people we want to help.”
The two month-long coat drive-which started simply because Ross couldn’t stop watching coverage of the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, and knew she needed to help-saw more than 2,300 coats collected. Of that 1,700 were being sent by Armour Transportation, 350 sets of hats, mitts, and gloves, and 410 spring and summer coats were donated to Canadian Red Cross as they could not be warehoused with NY Cares; there were another 200 or so coats which had to be discarded because the zippers were broken.
She said there are plans in the works for more donations to Camp Bulldog, including printing brochures with all the information on it so they don’t have to repeat themselves
“I’m not planning to go to sleep yet,” said Ross.
After getting the list of inventory from Ross-the truck driver-probably feeling a little awkward with all the fanfare-gave a ‘goodbye’ toot of the horn and with a cheer from a handful of volunteers, he was off heading down Highway 2 towards Enfield bound for Armour’s Dartmouth location to continue the voyage of the coats. They arrived at New York Cares’ headquarters in Manhattan, New York on Feb. 5