By Janee Law
A group of Town of Huntington residents made their way down to Texas last Thursday night into early Friday morning with five sprinter vans, two box trucks and two tractor trailers loaded with supplies donated by the community to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey.
“The outpouring was unbelievable,” said George Schwertl, of Lloyd Harbor, who returned home on Monday. “We didn’t have the room after four days of collecting. We were at full capacity.”
As they made their way through New York, Schwertl said Suffolk, Nassau and New York City police departments assisted the journey by escorting the drivers out of state.
“Texas sent relief up here during Hurricane Sandy, which I was not aware of, and we were able to pay back,” Schwertl said. “I’m happy that we were able to do something and give back.”
The team made it through Shenandoah, Virginia; Bristol, Tennessee; Gadsden, Alabama; and Laurel, Mississippi before making their first stop in Beaumont, Texas. There they visited the Sterling Pruitt Activity Center and then the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. From there, they went to the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston before making their last stop at The Lone Star Convention & Expo Center in Conroe, Texas.
Schwertl said the two tractor trailers, which were donated from Plycon Transportation Group and the Food Authority, were sent to deliver the supplies to a warehouse dubbed the Harvey Relief Hub in Houston. The Hub was set up by Houston realtor Bill Baldwin.
“As the trucks emptied out, you wish you had more showing up. I would still be collecting if I had the trucks to go down,” Schwertl said. “The only regret I have is that I didn’t have more. I wish I had more to give.”
Last month, when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas as Category 4 storm, Schwertl; his son George Schwertl Jr., of Port Jefferson; Casey McDonald, of Melville; Andre Sorrentino, of Huntington; and Richard McGuigan, of Northport; banded together to collect nonperishable items through donation bins set up at local fire departments and businesses.
Schwertl said state Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) and state chairman of the Independence Party Frank MacKay also joined the group for the trip down to Texas. Boyle and MacKay, along with Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX 8th District) helped unload the trucks.
The donated supplies included water, canned food, dry goods, baby products, blankets, wipes and dog, cat and horse food. Firehouses that assisted in collecting the items were Dix Hills, East Northport, Halesite, Huntington Manor and Northport; along with businesses such as PAS Automotive in Huntington Village, Sal’s Auto Body in Smithtown, Superior Ice Rink in Kings Park, Cavalier Auto Body in Huntington Station, and Schwertl Auto Body in Islandia.
Schwertl returned back to New York early Monday morning, and said aiding the relief efforts was rewarding.
“With all the negativity that we see in the news, it’s so great to see people working together and trying to help each other,” Schwertl said. “You really learn so much about people and you don’t realize what we take for granted. It was a good feeling doing it and I think everybody out there should do something like this.”