POSTED: 06/27/12, 12:00 AM EDT
By MONICA DRAKE
One week after a record 7.2 inches of rain fell in Duluth, Minn., a group of seven young adults from Independence Township decided they wanted to help the hundreds of residents displaced after the flood.
The group left on Wednesday morning in a van filled with 30 five-gallon buckets of cleaning supplies for a four-day trip.
This is the first trip of the newly formed nonprofit Disaster Relief at Work (DRAW) Buckets, founded by Greg Martin, 33, former youth pastor of Clarkston United Methodist.
“Red Cross does really good at donating medical supplies. The Salvation Army does a really good job at donating food. I thought, ‘what if we came up with a way to send stuff that people need after natural disasters that no one is sending?’ ” said Martin. “So we came up with the idea to take five-gallon buckets — a flood bucket, roof patching bucket, toiletries bucket — and ask people to fill them.”
Drew Salada, 18, who graduated from Clarkston High School this year, is one of the teens going on the trip. He said he met Martin through Clarkston United Methodist Church and attended several mission trips with him before he started this organization.
“We hope to keep helping him as long as we can and really get the program going,” said Salada.
Martin said, after visiting Pleasant Grove, Ala. and Joplin, Mo. after tornadoes ran through the cities last year, he realized a lot of residents’ needs weren’t met.
“Pleasant Grove looked like, if God had a lawn mower, he just took it over the top. He just flattened it. It was eerie to walk through,” said Martin. “I was inspired because none of them saw themselves as victims. They all saw themselves as survivors. They bonded together to rebuild the city.”
He noticed an overload of bottled water donated to the residents, yet several residents had holes in their roofs, debris littering their homes and nowhere to sleep.
“Each time, (residents) were telling me about the stuff they needed. I wanted to move on from being a youth director to doing something like this,” said Martin. “Hopefully, as we get going, we can fill the gap that nobody is filling. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support so far.
DRAW Buckets will have a float in Clarkston’s Fourth of July Parade this year to raise awareness of the organization. The parade begins at 10 a.m. at St. Daniel Catholic Church, located at the corner of Miller and Holcomb Roads in downtown Clarkston.
“We’ll have a Volkswagen van like ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ and a banner. A few musicians will get buckets and do a drum line on the trailer all the way through the parade,” said Martin.
Martin started DRAW Buckets in April, and he already has over 150 people committed to volunteer or donate to the organization.
DRAW Buckets Board Member Bob Schaffer donated space in his Waterford Township office building as the nonprofit’s headquarters. Schaffer said his business sits on 12 paved acres, and he hopes someday it will all be filled with items.
“At the first board meeting, I figured I should just volunteer this. There’s plenty of room,” said Schaffer. “We have our own tractors, trailers and trucks to move things too. We have the ability to take almost anything.”
The buckets put together will be customized to fit each natural disaster. For their trip to Minnesota, the group is bringing everything they would need to help residents muck out their homes.
“We’re bringing laundry detergent for them to clean out their clothes, a clothes line, clothes pins, household cleaner, dish soap, sponges and scouring pads,” Martin said.
Some of the other items needed by the nonprofit are tarps, tools, roofing nails, neon spray paint, working gloves, toiletries, air mattresses, sheets, inflatable pillows, blankets, garbage bags, gas cards, sunscreen, Ziploc bags, work boots, hard hats, dust masks and, of course, plastic five-gallon buckets. Other items that don’t fit in buckets, such as generators, ladders and chain saws, are also needed.
“We’ve only been planning this trip for three days. That’s what relief is. You can’t sit back and plan for three months. If someone loses their house, you have to get there to help them,” said Martin. “This is happening so fast — who knows how many people we can help in the first year.”