Glen Garman, a retired Naval officer who lives in Springfield, has a cabin in West Virginia and knows a few people there. He was not a victim of the floods that devastated more than half of the state, nor were his friends.
But Garman, 54, says it was for others not as fortunate that he was at the Baileys Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department yesterday, his 18th firehouse in Fairfax County so far, to help transport clothing, food, tools and medicine donated to flood victims.
"There was a bond," said Gerry Strider, president of the fire station, explaining why he's been "totally inundated" with as many as 400 calls a day from people like Garman. "This thing is more of a neighbor helping neighbor situation."
Strider said in the 18 years he's been in the fire-and-rescue business, he's never seen such an outpouring from a community. He's already filled three 45-foot tractor-trailers with items dropped off at his station alone, and "it just keeps coming."
"It was tremendous in the Washington area," said Jim Watkins, press spokesman for West Virginia Rep. Harley Staggers, whose district was hardest hit by flooding that turned 29 of the state's 55 counties into disaster areas. "There are a lot of people from West Virginia, or who have relatives in West Virginia or who have visited West Virginia and were more than willing to help."
In Montgomery County, the closed down Northwood High School has been reborn. "We're the central collection point for Maryland," said Jim Thorpe, a 1964 graduate, who has returned to direct volunteers and load trucks. "But people from Springfield, Arlington and Sterling have been bringing stuff. And please don't forget Southern Maryland."
The cafeteria where Thorpe used to eat lunch now looks more like a crowded department store, with mattresses, lamps, clocks, baby clothes and appliances in special areas and signs labeling the "Housewares Section" and "Shoes Around The Corner."
Behind the massive relief effort in Maryland is Donna Schriver, the chaplain for the women's auxiliary of Wheaton VFW Post 2562, which got the whole thing started. The post's pool room was the first collection point but quickly became too small and the operation was moved to the school.
"We thought we'd come in and do it for a week, but it's really mushroomed," said an exhausted Schriver, clutching a stack of lists. So far, she has sent six semi trucks and innumerable vans and trucks to places like Paw Paw, Moorefield, Parsons, Franklin and Marlinton.
Schriver has arranged for six more tractor-trailers to be sent today to the Washingtonian Motel, whose owners are donating 100 rooms of furniture for the flood victims, according to Keith Eig, general manager of the closed motel at Rte. I-270 and Shady Grove Road. Eig said its owners, Washingtonian Investors Limited Partnership, were going to sell the furniture, which includes 170 double beds and 175 lamps, but decided that donating it "made more sense."
Schriver said the items that are needed most are kerosene heaters, wood-burning stoves, roofing paper, hammers, nails, chainsaws, nonperishable items, people to pack boxes and vehicles to move goods.
The Red Cross plans to have "gala" Thanksgiving dinners in three yet-to-be-determined sites in West Virginia for all those displaced by the floods, according to Brian Ruberry, spokesman at American Red Cross Headquarters in Washington. He said 5,000 clean-up kits have already been sent and "we have a lot of people down there."
The Salvation Army has already collected $100,000 from 15,000 people, said Cathy Carroll, director of communications. She said three truckloads of supplies were sent from the adult rehabilitation center in Washington on Saturday and a truck was scheduled to depart from the Annandale center yesterday.