LA GRANGE – It took Ax Torres two hours to make the normally 20-minute drive from his La Grange home to his office at DHL Express near O’Hare International Airport when the flooding started April 18.
While navigating detour after detour, Torres realized the damage the flooding would cause.
“Houses up to 2, 3 feet in water. Cars that were up to their headlights in water. Entire roads closed,” he said. “Just general devastation, really.”
After hearing from employees whose houses were damaged by the storms, Torres, 28, and his girlfriend, Noelle Brown, decided to do something. Torres and Brown are organizing a collection of goods to donate to people affected by the flooding, using DHL trucks to transport – and in some cases, distribute – the items.
As of April 25, they had collected 400 pounds of clothing and blankets. Now, they are asking for canned goods, bottled water and cleaning supplies, though they still will accept clothing.
The donations largely will go to residents in Franklin Park, Schiller Park, Joliet and Mokena. Locations were picked based on need and the ability to find partners to help distribute the donations. Torres said he called mayors from several other towns but was told there was no need for help in those towns, he said. Torres and Brown are open to distributing donations to other towns if requested.
“I’m absolutely open to help anybody who needs it,” Torres said.
To report a need for donations, or to donate, contact Torres at firstname.lastname@example.org or 302-270-5187. By contacting Torres, arrangements can be made to drop off donations at Torres and Brown’s La Grange house. Donations also can be delivered to DHL Express, 10451 W. Waveland Ave., in Franklin Park.
DHL is paying for the transport of the donations with its trucks, Torres said. Torres started a similar national effort by DHL after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, when Torres and Brown organized the collection of 1,200 pounds of goods in the Chicagoland area alone and shipped them to people in New York and New Jersey using DHL vehicles.
They hope to gather 1,000-1,500 pounds of donations during their current collection and will donate any extra items to food banks or other collection centers. Finding donations has proven easier than finding ways to distribute them.
“One of our biggest struggles with this whole thing is actually getting the stuff to people who need it, which is kind of ironic,” Torres said.
Organizations in need of donations – or groups that can help distribute them – also should contact Torres.
Brown and Torres still are working to find locations where people can pick up donations. In some places, DHL vehicles will deliver donations directly to people’s doors.
“They don’t have to come get it from us,” said Torres. “We can come to them.”
Torres, a logistics and operations supervisor at DHL, is coordinating the physical collection effort, while Brown, a stay-at-home mother, is working to publicize the drive online and via social media.
They began collecting April 22 and will take donations through May 3. They planned to start distributing donations between April 29 and May 2.