What started Sunday as a casual conversation between husband and wife will hopefully result in a semi-truck loaded with donations of furniture, clothing and basic living supplies leaving Stow for the tornado-ravaged city of Tuscaloosa, AL.
Update 7:48 a.m: TTR Shipping extented the time to donate to 2 to 4 p.m. today (May 8).
Items collected that day will be organized, boxed up, loaded onto pallets, shrink wrapped, then transported 760 miles to the hard-hit Alabama city of nearly 80,000.
New items being sought by disaster relief agencies operating in Tuscaloosa include: bottled water, infant and adult diapers, wipes, formula, feminine products, toiletries, cleaning supplies, non-perishable food items and dog and cat food.
Gently used items that are needed include: towels, bedding, toys, furniture, clothing and shoes (preferably sorted by gender and size), electronics and appliances (in good working order).
Also needed Saturday are plenty of volunteers willing to help organize and pack donated items, as Relief for Tuscaloosa is not sponsored by an agency or company – just a handful of friends who jumped on a good idea.
Last Sunday, Stow residents Staci and Phillip Ross were talking about the devastation caused by a line of tornadoes that ripped through several southern states April 27. “I really wanted to help in some way, but didn't know how,” said Staci.
“These people [in Tuscaloosa] have lost absolutely everything. There are entire streets that are just wiped out – there’s nothing left,” Phillip lamented.
The Ross family just purchased new furniture for their living room, kitchen and daughter’s bedroom. They intended to sell their gently used furniture at an upcoming neighborhood garage sale, but had a eureka moment.
“We got to thinking that these families down south could probably use that furniture more than we needed the couple of bucks we would make from it ... so a dream was born,” Staci said.
Phillip called his friend, Josh Taylor of Stow, who owns TTR Shipping with his wife, Jen, and a plan started to take shape. Josh made a couple phone calls and secured the donation of a semi-tractor trailer from C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. to make the trip to Tuscaloosa next week.
On Monday, the Rosses sent a mass email to their friends, who then forwarded it to their friends. In no time, phones were ringing and email boxes were filling up with replies about Relief for Tuscaloosa.
“We can’t believe it’s evolved into what it has,” said Phillip. “The word just keeps getting spread further and further. The feedback we’ve been receiving is insane. More and more people are offering to stop by Saturday to drop off what they can. It’s all pretty exciting.”
“I am in awe of how many people have jumped in with both feet and shown such acts of kindness and selflessness. We live in a great community with great people,” Staci said. “I can't believe this little dream that started only a few days ago has grown so big, so fast, thanks to so many.”
The owners of numerous area businesses have stepped forward with a variety of assistance offers. Staci learned the American Red Cross prefers donations to arrive on pallets, so Plastic Materials Inc. in Akron donated 30 of them.
Acme is donating pallets of bottled water. Gavin Scott Salon & Spa in Stow is gathering donations. The Akron Aeros and Cleveland Gladiators will be issuing press releases seeking donations for Relief for Tuscaloosa.
And the owner of in Stow is taking pails of ice cream in several flavors to Saturday’s event to pass out cones starting at 11 a.m.
The Rosses don’t know what to expect Saturday, having never organized such an event. They fear not having enough volunteers.
“If people flock to TTR Shipping, as it’s sounding like, we’re going to need help sorting items out, loading trucks,” Phillip said. "Saturday could be overwhelming – or it could be a bust. We just don’t know.”
Those who have items to donate but can’t get to TTR Shipping on Saturday are asked to call Staci at 330-990-0573 or Phillip at 330-990-0624.