Davis resident Leslie Blevins was horrified by the news of the devastation Hurricane Sandy brought to the East Coast — a place she called home for a period of time, and where many of her friends still live.
Updates on the disaster trickled in from her best friend, who lost power along with 7.5 million other people on the Eastern seaboard. The powerful storm, which made landfall in New York on Oct. 29, had left severe damage in its wake as it tore through at least 24 states.
Blevins, who attended high school in Connecticut and college in Rhode Island, offered assistance immediately after hearing of Sandy’s impact.
“My friend forwarded me emails from a couple of different people who were sending out desperate requests for clothes from Staten Island and Coney Island, on the New Jersey shore,” said the 47-year-old local.
With connections to the East Coast, and a husband — Travis Milner — who works for One Stop Logistics, a shipping company, Blevins was in a unique position to organize a clothing donation drive from 3,000 miles away. In light of this, she started what was intended to be a small-scale relief effort.
But the community’s response to her mission was anything but small-scale. In just one week, she had received enough clothes to fill an entire pallet — more than 400 pounds.
“It got much bigger than I thought it would be,” Blevins said, expressing her delight with a laugh.
She began the undertaking in early November by emailing about 40 of her Davis friends, and mentioning her project to some of her co-workers at Coldwell Banker-Doug Arnold Real Estate.
She asked people for donations of warm clothing, which would be used to keep people displaced by the storm comfortable through the harsh cold of the coming winter.
“All of a sudden, these huge garbage bags are on my front doorstep,” Blevins said. “Our entire living room looked like the Goodwill. I was overwhelmed. This wasn’t people’s junk, either, it was super-nice stuff.
“My neighbors went to Costco and bought five or six brand-new jackets and brand-new socks. Another friend of mine went to Target and probably bought 100 pairs of kids’ mittens, gloves and hats.”
After collecting donations totaling 600 pounds, Blevins enlisted her husband and his co-workers to get the boxes packed up and shipped out on Wednesday.
Blevins said the donations are en route to the children of a low-income school in New Jersey. The hurricane completely wiped out the students’ elementary school, and has forced them to move into another building temporarily.
“We’re so incredibly thankful,” said Chiara Nakashian, a teacher at the devastated school. ”(Blevins) and her husband have been wonderful — so generous and understanding of the situation.”
The grassroots donation effort was a success thanks to the community’s outstanding support, Blevins said.
It never would have been possible, however, if the Davis woman didn’t believe in the warmth of a coat, scarf or mittens above all else.
“My feeling was, if I donated $100, who was going to get my money?” Blevins said. “I wanted my donation to really get to someone who needed it. … These people are in desperate need, and have absolutely nothing.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8052.