NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. – A truck filled with donated supplies from the Cataract City to help the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, and which had some fits and starts in getting to its destination, is finally on its way south.
“This is just another example of how people come together, and we make it happen," said Buffalo Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen, whose generosity and quick thinking got the truck on its way.
The drive to fill a rental truck in Niagara Falls began Saturday, organized in part by restaurateur Brett Biro and several other businesses.
However, at the last minute, a trucking firm which had agreed to get the supplies to Houston backed out, according to Niagara Falls City Councilman Kenny Tompkins.
A representative of Rich Products reached out to Pridgen, being aware that Pridgen - through his True Bethel Church on Buffalo’s east side - had some experience with transporting relief supplies from when he organized a water drive to Flint, Michigan.
“It’s always important, when staging a relief effort that you partner with someone who has the wherewithal to get donated goods to where they are needed, such as the Salvation Army.
The Salvation Army is with whom Pridgen is currently partnering to get supplies donated to his church to the people of Houston.
By late Monday morning, it had been thought that a solution to the Niagara Falls problem had been reached when the Salvation Army decided to accept the goods gathered there, and lump them into a shipment of supplies being donated by Western New Yorkers through WGRZ’s own Buffalo Cares Hurricane Relief Supply Drive.
However, the Salvation Army in Buffalo is under a directive by its national leadership to ship personal care products, such as toothpaste, soap, deodorant, towels, tampons, and diapers.
“We are not authorized to ship clothing, shoes, or food supplies at this point,” explained the Salvation Army’s Major Thomas Applin.
When the truck, driven by Biro from Niagara Falls, showed up to Salvation Army headquarters on Main Street, it was found to be laden with many of those items, plus baby strollers and other goods which the Salvation Army could not ship.
The supplies appeared to be stuck in limbo once again.
Pridgen was then contacted by the Salvation Army, and agree to store the items in an east side warehouse he owns, until such time as arrangements could be made to truck the supplies southward.
The truck then headed to the warehouse on Kehr Street.
But when it arrived, Biro and Pridgen – who had never met- got to talking, and within five minutes worked out a solution to get the supplies on their way.
Biro was willing to drive the rental truck himself to Houston.
Pridgen agreed to pay expenses up to $1,000 for gas, lodging, and meals for Biro and his son, along with two plane tickets for them to fly back to Buffalo after they dropped the rental truck off in Houston.
Pridgen deduced it would be more efficient in terms of time and money, than to unload the entire truck, store the supplies, and load the truck again once a professional trucking firm was hired.
Pridgen also insisted on paying for Biro’s son to go along because he felt Biro should not be traveling alone, and that it would allow his son to learn firsthand about how gratifying it could be to help others in need.
"I guess what it took was a little bit of collaboration a little bit of thinking," said a still stunned Biro, as he hugged Pridgen and prepared to head to a gas station to fuel up the truck and get on his way.
“What’s really amazing to me is how the people of Buffalo and Niagara Falls can come together and help another city that’s hurting,” he said.