Truck Load of Relief

Truck Load of Relief

Herndon United Methodist Church raises money to buy box truck for hurricane relief.

When Jay Lightfoot learned that the United Methodist Church Committee on Relief's distribution center just north of New Orleans needed assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, he jumped at the opportunity to help.

The distribution depot, based at a campus named Sager Brown, has been working overtime to help the tens of thousands of Gulf Coast residents currently living in shelter conditions, said Lightfoot, a member of the Herndon United Methodist Church.

Ironically the center, where church members across the country send first aid, health and flood kits, was impacted by the aftermath of Katrina's destruction, said the Rev. Justin White of Herndon United Methodist Church.

Through a network of ministers via e-mail and other on-line message boards, Sager Brown personnel quickly sent a plea to United Methodist Churches across the country asking for help with hurricane relief efforts, said White.

The Sager Brown facility serves as a depot and central station for the processing of disaster relief supplies in support of the United Methodist Committee on Relief's mission: "to provide immediate relief to acute human need and to respond to the suffering of persons in the world caused by natural, ecological and civil disasters or political turmoil," according to the official United Methodist Church Web site.

AFTER THE PLEA, the center quickly filled with food, supply kits and bottled water, according to the Web site.

But, those working with the relief efforts quickly realized they had no way to transport the food to the thousands of residents without homes.

That is when Lightfoot came forward with a plan.

Co-owner with his wife of Sojourns, a Herndon-based business that builds furnished apartments, the Herndon resident said he knew exactly how to help.

"The problem they are having now," said Lightfoot about Sager Brown, "is that a lot of stuff comes in on tractor trailers and you can't get that into urban areas.

"But, you can with a box truck," he said.

After speaking with White and other leaders of the church, Lightfoot said it was decided they would donate a box truck to the depot for long term use.

But neither he nor the ministers of the Herndon United Methodist Church had the $25,000 it would take to purchase a used truck large enough for the work.

"If you think small, then you do small things," said Lightfoot. "If you think big, then you do big things."

Using that motto, Lightfoot and the Herndon ministers contacted area churches to tell them of their plan and asking for help to purchase a truck.

They also began an outreach to the surrounding Herndon and Reston communities, asking for help in raising the $25,000 by Oct. 31.

"ONE-HUNDRED PERCENT of the money will go to buy the truck," said White of the tax-deductible donation. "We'll drive it down, we'll pay for the gas to get it there."

As of Sept. 30, the church had raised a little more than $10,000 through donations from its congregation.

But, because the timeline is tight, Lightfoot and White hope the donations do not slow after the initial rush.

"Our goal is to raise all of the money in October and get the truck down there by the start of November," said Lightfoot.

Because he grew up in northern Louisiana, and because of his experience in driving box trucks, Lightfoot said he would be one of the members driving the truck to the depot.

Before they leave, Mike Chandler of Chandler and Sons Automotive in Herndon has offered to check out the truck to ensure it will make the long trip and not break down along the way or once it gets there, said Lightfoot.

"It's long-term," said White about the purchase. "It's something they can use for a long-time."

Once the Louisiana area is cleaned up and residents begin to rebuild their lives, adult members of the Herndon church plan to take a mission trip to the area in the spring to offer additional, hands-on assistance, said White.

But, until then, their focus is on providing immediate relief.

"It's something we need to do," Lightfoot said about the pressing deadline. "We need to get the truck down there."