Garfield County donations bound for Okla. tornado victims
Post Independent Intern
RIFLE — After a roughly three-week collection period, tornado relief efforts organized by Grady Hazleton of Rifle have culminated in about 19 pallets of locally donated goods traveling to Moore, Okla., which was struck by an EF5 tornado on May 20.
“We’re awfully close to filling the truck,” Hazleton said before the tractor-trailer’s departure Wednesday morning. “We have just about everything you could imagine — clothes, kitchenware, baby car seats, diapers and toilet paper.”
The donations will be transported to a large warehouse near Oklahoma City, where victims living in the affected areas can gather necessary supplies. According to Hazleton, the warehouse has been converted into a supply distribution center by several churches.
A number of local community members banded together to complete this project, beginning when Hazleton sent a text message to friend Keith Gilstrap of GilCo Transportation Inc. after seeing the disaster on the news.
“My wife and I were watching the news and seeing how people lost everything,” Hazleton said. “I sent a text to my good friend [Gilstrap], and he said he’d be all for it.”
Gilstrap donated the tractor-trailer for the trip and, soon after, Mike Marcucci of the local Pepsi-Cola distributor in New Castle offered a location to store the donated goods and build the pallets. After that, Mike Fattor, president of Western Petroleum in Glenwood Springs, called Hazleton and said he’d donate the fuel. Pepsi also donated 5 pallets of beverages.
“It was really a lot of different efforts from a lot of different people,” Gilstrap explained. “This is what GilCo does, moving products across the country, and we’re just happy to do it for those folks in Moore.”
Gilstrap originally planned to drive the roughly 900-mile route himself, until two of his employees volunteered to complete the task at no charge.
Drivers Dominique Hamilton, 45, and Scott Poppleton, 46, reside in Ogden, Utah, but traveled to Glenwood Springs Tuesday evening to prepare for the drive. According to Hamilton, the team has been driving together for three years and generally alternates 10-hour shifts, covering up to 1,200 miles in a day.
“I felt bad for those people; that [tornado] was devastating,” Hamilton said. “They called and asked if we’d be interested, and I said, ‘Definitely.’ This is an awesome opportunity.”
Hamilton and Poppleton will be accompanied by three Chihuahuas: Raider, Archer and Rocky. Hamilton said the dogs escort the team on all of their drives as their “driving buddies.”
Now that the project is complete, Hazelton said he is happy with the end result.
“We really just wanted to get a load from us to the people who need it,” he said. “The response was very good, and it was exactly what I expected of our area.”
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