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Published: Thursday, 6/19/2008

Trailer of supplies collected from area heads to flood-ravaged Iowa

BY MATTHEW EISEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Charles Atkins will leave his small town in the mountains of North Carolina tomorrow morning driving a trailer packed with 42,000 pounds of bottled water, mops, flashlights, and baby diapers.

Those supplies and others are bound for Iowa flood victims, but they first were collected in Toledo.

Mr. Atkins works for ISOH/IMPACT, a charitable organization based in Perrysburg, delivering commodities to disaster sites and helping victims clean up damage left by natural disasters.

A second 40-foot container carrying more supplies will meet Mr. Atkins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after ISOH/IMPACT collection efforts in the Toledo area wrap up tomorrow and Saturday.

Linda Greene, president and chief executive officer of ISOH/IMPACT, began working with Mr. Atkins in 2004 after devastating hurricanes hit Florida, and the two since have collaborated to send goods to a number of disaster areas.

"The number one thing we can provide is the ability to listen and hear the people who are in shock," she said. "Number two would be water and then shelter."

Ms. Greene said that the efforts with recent flooding "will take more than just Iowans helping Iowans."

Mr. Atkins expects to arrive Saturday in the drenched state, where he will unload his trailer and begin to assess damage caused by the flooding.

Mr. Atkins, who owns an environmental cleanup company in Cashiers, N.C., will begin efforts on Monday, working with two ministers in the area, Reginald Daniels and Ed Kraft, whose homes were engulfed by flood waters.

"We have a minister whose home had water all the way up into the attic," Mr. Atkins said. "He had no flood insurance. He said home after home in his neighborhood was like this."

Dennis Cole, acting emergency management director for Lucas County, and Tom Barnhizer, deputy director for the emergency agency, said the efforts of smaller organizations such as ISOH/IMPACT help fill a void in disaster relief.

"Community social services kick in to provide immediate needs of people - food, clothing, shelter - but that is strictly temporary," Mr. Barnhizer said.

Mr. Cole stressed that many of the infrastructure and economic problems in Iowa will be long-term issues.

"Short-term effects are just the tip of the iceberg," Mr. Cole said.

"The disaster is like what you can see, and the recovery is the iceberg that is down below the water."

Mr. Atkins will stay in Iowa for several months, recruiting volunteers from a large network of people across the country. He will post information on the Internet and plans to enlist all who want to help.

The team of volunteers will pump water out of homes and remove spoiled drywall. Borax, Clorox, and Lysol then will be used to kill bacteria and prevent the growth of harmful mold.

"Anything that is anti-bacterial is what we need because the floodwaters were full of sewer waste," Mr. Atkins said.

"And as the waters recede and the heat comes in, the [bacteria] will multiply."

Mr. Atkins expects the trailers of Toledo-provided supplies, which include a number of disinfectant cleaners, bleaches, and scrubbing pads, to take care of at least a block worth of crippled homes.

The donations come during a time in which several Toledo-based organizations acknowledge giving is down.

Kristen Cajka, head of fund-raising for the Greater Toledo Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, said donations in 2008 have been small in comparison to the outpouring seen with Hurricane Katrina and in the Far East.

"Our disaster money is kind of running on empty," she said. "We're being forced to go out and borrow money to finance [relief efforts]."

Ms. Cajka theorized that with so many recent disaster situations, people might be numbing to the idea of charity.

She also speculated that the troubled economy might have an impact on giving, though she remains optimistic about the generosity of the Toledo-area community.

"It's just about educating people about why we need it so much," she said.

Ms. Greene agreed that responses to the most recent wave of disasters have waned. She even cites fuel prices as one reason for the drop-off in mobilization.

But like Ms. Cajka, Ms. Greene has faith in people's willingness to reach out, especially Toledo-area residents.

"Yes, Americans care about Americans," she said.

"This is the most giving nation in the world and when their own are affected, they give even more."

Contact Matthew Eisen at:

meisen@theblade.com

or 419-724-6077.


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