WATERFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — In a warehouse in Waterford Township, a team of volunteers spent Wednesday afternoon gearing up for disaster relief in Florida.
Nonprofit Disaster Relief At Work (DRAW), based in metro Detroit, has been responding to natural disasters for the last decade. The nonprofit is now planning to lend a hand as Hurricane Ian is expected to make landfall in the United States.
"I think it’s important to give back. We’re pretty blessed in this country," said Matt Squire who spent the afternoon at the warehouse with fellow employees. "Even when bad things happen here, it’s nice to be able to help others because everyone has a bad day."
DRAW uses donated supplies to load up plastic buckets. The buckets can contain toiletries, roof patching materials, or cleaning supplies. Volunteers load the buckets on a trailer to be sent to places where natural disasters have hit.
"Buckets just kind of became our mascot. It’s an easy way to distribute things and in most cases, the buckets can also serve as a thing people can use," said Greg Martin, the executive director of DRAW.
Volunteers that are planning to help during the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, started making their way to Valdosta, GA Wednesday afternoon.
"Our team is prepositioning with loads of supplies outside the storm area tonight and tomorrow. As soon as the storm passes, we’ve done the work ahead of time to connect people all along the western coast to Florida," said Martin.
Along with the buckets, DRAW is also planning to send a team of at least 8 to 12 volunteers to help. They say the number of volunteers could grow depending on the needs on the ground. They also have additional buckets and supplies at their warehouse location in Mississippi.
"There’s nothing like being able to provide something for somebody who needs it," said Martin. "It’s the epitome of loving your neighbor and who knows? Next year it could be us who’s hit by a major storm and it’s not a hurricane, it’s something else. So, I know if I'm going to be the best neighbor I can be, I'm going to be looking out for people who are at their rock bottom."
Staff at the nonprofit say Hurricane Ian made the last few weeks unusually busy for their team.
"We had to respond to the floods in Kentucky last month, the floods in St. Louis, and the Jackson water crisis this month. So, this hurricane is four disasters in two months and we’re not that big," said Martin.
Although they're more than 1,200 miles from the state where Hurricane Ian made landfall, volunteers say they're happy to do their part.
"It doesn’t seem like what we’re doing is going to be that big of an impact, right? But I’m anxious to see what Greg has to say after he delivers all of this stuff because I’m sure it will help somebody," said Squire.
The team at Draw says because they've responded to multiple disasters in the last two months, their supply shelves are depleted. To help replenish supplies for families at the sites of future disasters or find volunteer opportunities, visit the DRAW website.