A nonprofit trucking group is working with a volunteer disaster relief organization to collect and eventually deliver critical supplies as Hurricane Ian strengthens to Category 4 and is expected to make landfall on Florida’s southwest coast late Wednesday morning.

Shelley Conaway-Waugh of Lexington, Kentucky, a 30-year trucking veteran, runs a nonprofit group called Trucks with free space. She is working with several relief organizations, including CN Supply, along with her network of truckers and donors, to pick up critical disaster relief supplies that her group will deliver to the hardest-hit areas of Florida once Ian passes.

“Once the hurricane hits and the initial search and rescue efforts are over, we will begin delivering supplies,” Conaway-Waugh told FreightWaves.

Her group coordinates with drivers who want to volunteer and have room in their trailers to carry a few pallets of supplies when they head to the area, and asks trucking companies if they can donate a driver and their equipment to pick up and deliver supplies.

Donations for trucks with a spare seat website will support fuel and other costs incurred truck drivers who volunteer their time and their installations for collection and delivery of critical cargo.

Her group’s website lists various ways to donate.

“Cash allows us to buy supplies we don’t have,” Conaway-Waugh said. “If people want to go into supply, that’s also an option.”

On the website of the group it has list of rules and regulations for volunteer disaster fundraisers to make sure her group can accept the loads.

Her only request is not to donate clothes.

“There are organizations that bring in loads of trailers full of clothes and it always seems like nobody needs it,” she said. “But cleaning products, tents, outdoor cooking stoves, shovels, tarps and garbage bags are always needed.”

Nonprofits are partners in post-hurricane relief

Kristen Wise, president of CN Supply, describes her nonprofit group as a bridge that connects people willing to donate and give their time or money to help with the people who need their help the most.

“Because we’re a small group of volunteers, we try to be really intentional with our help,” Wise told FreightWaves. “We’re really making an effort to not just throw guns at places, but kind of wait for the storm to pass and really assess which areas really need our help.”

She said there are many organizations mobilizing to be able to help with high water rescues and other disaster relief efforts, but her group’s approach is to figure out who needs help the most after the storm passes. .

“There is a lot of help from government agencies and resources on the ground as part of the first wave of relief,” Wise said. “However, these resources are being stretched quite quickly.”

Many times her group’s help is needed in low-income communities that were vulnerable to hurricane devastation.

“Now they are in an even worse situation, not having access to utilities, water and electricity for a long period of time,” Wise said.

Her group focuses on the second wave, when CN Supply receives requests from people who still need help because they don’t have access to food, water and other items such as feminine hygiene products, diapers, wipes, formula and adult diapers that people forget about because their drugstores or grocery stores are closed.

“So after the aftermath of the second wave, we’re saying, ‘OK, there really is a need here,’ and we’re going to step in and help,” Wise said.

Wise is originally from southeast Texas but moved to Washington, D.C. a few years ago. She joined CN Supply in 2017 during Hurricane Harvey, which caused severe flooding and destruction in her hometown.

“I felt so helpless that this was happening in my hometown, and I wanted to do something to help my family and friends, even if I couldn’t be there,” she said.

Before becoming the group’s president, she worked remotely as the high water dispatcher and supply coordinator and director of humanitarian aid for the group.

Ways to donate?

Some people like to donate money online and CN Supply website there is a donation link, Wise said. Her group works with volunteer drivers with spare trucks to pick up items from communities, churches, schools or businesses that want to mobilize and organize a collection.

“I tell people to buy disaster relief supplies as if they were going on a family camping trip to remote areas where you wouldn’t have access to stores to get those things,” Wise said.

CN Supply will assist with local media press releases for gathering organizers with whom the group works. The group will also promote the donation on its social media platforms, Wise said.

“One of the great things about partnering with Trucks with Room to Spare is that pickups can be made in areas outside of the built-up areas affected by the storm,” Wise said. “Through this partnership, we can be really connected as a grassroots community and collect at different points across the country and deliver to the areas that need it the most.”

This is a developing story. Stay tuned to FreightWaves and FWNOW.

Click here for more articles by Clarissa Hawes.

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