While central Wisconsin might not have felt the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, a group of Wisconsin Rapids residents have gathered to make the victims’ lives a little bit easier.
Hurricane Sandy tore through the Northeast United States on Oct. 29 leaving behind an estimated $60 billion in property and business damages, according to The Associated Press. Wisconsin Rapids resident John Zagorianakos’ mother was one of the many who lost their homes when the storm hit Staten Island, N.Y.
“People say they are OK, but my mother’s house is underwater, my aunt’s house is underwater and my sister’s house is underwater,” said Zagorianakos, who has been unable to contact his family via phone but has had people contact him through Facebook.
Zagorianakos wanted to go immediately to assist his family, but his wife, Hope, and his friend, James Owen, had a different idea.
“John wanted to go in the worse way,” Owen said. “He was going to go one way or another, and I figured if we were going to go out there, we’d make it worthwhile and try to help.”
A desire to assist family on the morning of Oct. 30 blossomed into helping as many residents in Staten Island as possible, and by the morning of Oct. 31, the trio had involved their trucking company, On-Time Trucking, LLC and had friends, such as Helen Skreekstra, hosting a benefit for survivors of the storm.
“Between John’s heart and Helen’s brain and the fact that James and I had a trucking company is how this came together,” said Hope Zagorianakos.
With donated storage units and a semi truck waiting to be filled, the group has teamed with Staten Island-based Project Hospitality, a non-profit group that provides services to the homeless, in hopes to donate necessities to those affected by the storm.
Rev. Terry Troia, who is associated with Project Hospitality, did not return phone calls. It was unknown if Troia had phone service.
“There are thousands of people with nothing right now,” John Zagorianakos said. “We are trying to put donations into the hands of the people who need it.”
Using their own fleet of trucks, the group wants to accept donations and will drive them as trucks are filled. They are currently accepting donations at the former Brostrom Kickert parking lot at 2660 Eighth St. S. and plan on running the drive from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Nov. 5.
“I am hoping to have the first semi load out on Friday,” Hope Zagorianakos said.
Receiving donations of food and clothing from residents, the group has also received monetary donations from local businesses to pay for the fuel of the trucks with all proceeds donated directly to Project Hospitality.
“We’ve been dealing locally and they’re wonderful people,” said Skreekstra, who has been placing calls to area businesses. “We thank people for their generosity.”
Accepting a variety of donations, which have included gift cards as well as slightly used items, the group states the goal is to help in any way.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s new or used. It just needs to get to them,” Hope Zagorianakos said.
While some may not have anyone along the coast who was affected by the event, Owen thinks helping them is the right thing to do anyways.
“If a tornado ripped through here tomorrow, I hope to God someone would do something the same for us,” he said.
“People need people and that’s what we are here for,” she said.
No donation is too big or too small for John Zagorianakos, and he plans on delivering all donated items whether the load is big enough for a semi truck or small enough to fit into the back of his pickup truck.
“I wish everyone the best of luck (who survived the hurricane),” he said. “I am only one person and we are only one community, but we will do our best to help everyone out who’s been put out of their homes. If we have it on on our truck, we will put it in their hands.”
How to help
Bring donations to the former Brostrom Kickert parking lot at 2660 Eighth St. S. from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Needed items include: batteries (C and D), flashlights, LED lanterns, charcoal, battery operated radios, rubber gloves, towels, baby wipes, diapers, boots, shoes, blankets, canned food, cleaning supplies, garbage bags and clothing (new and used).
For more information on the donation drive, contact John and Hope at 715-459-7113 or 715-459-7112.