Tony Ward, the co-director of Operation Independence's Bayonne regional operations, said they decided to change their support as an ongoing matter. Bayonne, as one of the 13 regional centers throughout the United States, will serve as a center for collecting and delivering aid.
The City of Bayonne has donated 40,000 square feet of warehouse space to the operation, Ward said. Operation Independence has been in contact with the office of Louisiana's governor for permission to begin sending aid. "We've been getting calls from all over the northeast," said Danielle Ward, co-director. "But we had to wait until we got approval from the governor of Louisiana."
Karen Zoeller, executive director of the Louisiana governor's Office of Help and Volunteer Assets, authorized the operation, but excluded them from entering those areas currently under the control of the Louisiana State Police such as Jefferson Parish, the city of New Orleans, and other critical areas.
Operation Independence is recognized by the Department of Defense as a support group for the troops.
"With all the centers we have around the country, we managed to mobilize 100,000 volunteers within a half an hour," Tony Ward said, noting that once approval was granted, "We immediately activated our centers in Houston and Austin in Texas, and in Tupelo, Mississippi."
There is a warehouse located near the Astrodome, but materials will go to the areas from each region. Trucks will be loaded in Bayonne and sent south as soon as possible.
The hurricane relief program is seeking diapers, baby formula, baby wipes, snack bars, granola bars, crackers, cereal, sips, water, blankets, hand sanitizers, Pop Tarts, baby food, canned goods, and backpacks as well as new summer clothing such as shorts, t-shirts, socks, and children's underwear.
Ward said that with the assistance of Mayor Joseph Doria, Operation Independence is hoping to seen as many truckloads of goods as possible.
Goods should be dropped off at the Operation Interdependence Center. A sign designed by Tony Larino of Vidal Signs will be hung on the headquarters at 200 Broadway (near Seventh Street) for people who wish to help.
"The work of Operational Independence in this area makes sense," said Mayor Joseph Doria. "This all ties together with what the city is doing."
Kids helping kids?
One of the innovations that may be picked up nationally is a backpack program that will allow families with kids to supply backpacks full of needed items. This would include a change of clothing and other items that a child relocated might need.
The program would have children and their families selecting those items they know would be needed for someone their own age.
"This would mean that a 6-year-old would be donating those things a 6-year-old would need, a 7-year-old for a 7-year-old, etc.," said Danielle Ward.
The backpacks could be fully outfitted for less than $15, Ward said.
This program will be open to children and families from Pre-K to high school.
City to help IMTT
Last week, the city of Bayonne announced a fundraising effort to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina that would be co-chaired by Ginger Kemp of Four Seasons Travel, Phyllis Garelick, president of the Bayonne Medical Center Foundation, and Tony Ward.
The local relief effort is to work closely with James Coleman, chairman of the International Matex Tank Terminals (IMTT) - a New Orleans- and Bayonne-based company - who kicked off the fundraising effort with a $10,000 donation.
Because of the impact of the hurricane, IMTT operations are being relocated to the Bayonne facilities along with the workers and families.
"The company is relocating its headquarters here," said Mayor Joseph Doria, noting that schools are opening their doors to children from families being relocated here. Two students have already been admitted to St. Andrew's School.
The company expects to bring 50 to 60 families to Bayonne, and children will be brought into the public schools as well.
Police Director Mark Smith said Bayonne and IMTT have a special relationship.
"When Bayonne needed something Jim Coleman and his family were always there for us, it's time for us to be there for them," Smith said.
Contact Al Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org