Over the upcoming weekend, tour buses departing from Jamestown will head to New York City carrying more than just tourists.
On Friday evening, two Holiday Tours buses will be delivering donated items in an effort to provide assistance to victims of Hurricane Sandy. The operation, referred to as "Stuff the Bus," is being run by the Jamestown Community Chamber of Commerce, which is encouraging all local residents to help with relief and cleanup supplies for those affected in the New York City area.
The "Stuff the Bus" campaign is the brainchild of Bill Stevenson, a board member of the Jamestown Community Chamber.
"Every year (Holiday Tours) takes buses of people to go shopping in NYC during the first week of December," said Stevenson. "People go sightseeing and Christmas shopping, but there's nothing in the bays underneath. The motor coach is always empty on the way there and they fill them up for the way back. I figured we could load them up with supplies to take out and drop them off. The (board of directors) was looking for something different to do this year, and I brought it up in a board meeting."
According to Marty Idzik, coordinator of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce, the board members were very receptive to Stevenson's idea.
"The board members and I jumped right on it," said Idzik. "There is still a lot of devastation and there is a great need. I heard on the news yesterday that the estimate of the damage done in the NYC area is in excess of $42 billion. People have to clean up their homes and yards and remove debris. This is a time of giving and the people of Jamestown and Chautauqua County have always been very generous. I think this is an opportunity to help our neighbors to the south that are in need."
After his idea was approved, Stevenson contacted the Salvation Army to find out what supplies were needed and where to deliver them.
"They don't want clothes," he said. "They're looking for basic clean-up supplies like gloves, eye protection, face masks, shovels and brooms. Everybody wants to give but the issue is getting the stuff where it needs to go."
The Jamestown Community Chamber is taking on this project with assistance from the Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation. Up until Friday evening, people wishing to donate can bring their items to the Renaissance building at the corner of Washington Street and Third Street.
Items that will be accepted include: bleach/household cleaners/disinfectant, duct tape, dust masks, eye protection, garbage bags, hand cleaner, mops, sponges, brooms, paper towels, rubber/work gloves, Tyvek/overalls, brooms, rakes and shovels.
Personal items and food will also be accepted, including: baby food/formula, backpacks, bottled water/juice, canned fruit, cereal, granola/sports bars, crackers/cookies, diapers, hand wipes/towelettes, instant coffee/tea/milk/soup, packages of raisins/nuts, peanut butter, school supplies, shampoo, liquid or bar soap, tissue/toilet paper and toothbrushes/toothpaste.
An opportunity to donate will also be available during Friday's Downtown Jamestown Holiday Parade. The chamber will have a truck in the parade and people can give their items to members of the DJDC and the Jamestown Community Chamber walking along side the truck.
At the conclusion of the parade, the donated items will be loaded on the tour buses and shipped to NYC overnight to be unloaded on Saturday morning.
"In connection to the Christmas parade, it's a time to impress upon young people that charitable giving is a part of life," said Idzik. "We hope that the (cargo) bays will be filled and we've talked about the prospect of having too much to put in the bays. We have other plans to transport excess items if that's the case. We've got a tremendous donation from the Vikings (Ingjald Lodge No. 65 in Jamestown) in regard to shovels and rakes. I'm no expert on the capacity of bus compartments but I think we're going to do well."