FLINT TWP. — Eighth-grade students in Derek Maynard’s science class at Carman- Ainsworth Middle School have been studying a severe weather unit which fit right in with a visit last Thursday from Greg Martin, who had returned two days earlier from helping families in New Jersey impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
Martin is executive director of DRAW (Disaster Relief at Work) a non-profit organization based in Clarkston, which he founded in March, inspired by a visit to a tornado-torn town in Alabama last year.
Martin shared a video with the students showing the devastation Sandy left behind along the New Jersey coastline where bulldozers were used to clear a path through the streets.
He also told them about people he met who put a face on the suffering of families who lost everything.
People like Rick, who Martin described as a gruff, brawny guy you wouldn’t want to tangle with in a bar fight. Rick accepted their help cleaning up the home his family had lived in only four months and was pretty stoic about sifting through his water-damaged belongings.
But when asked what to do with an antique desk, Rick broke down. Among other treasures, the desk contained Rick’s wedding photo album. Martin said two DRAW volunteers went through the album page by page, cleaning photos and salvaging what they could of Rick’s memories.
That’s the kind of personal support DRAW was created to offer. For many of the families, it helps just knowing they are not alone, Martin said.
Martin also talked about DRAW’s first relief mission to Pleasant Grove, Alabama where he met a local waitress who said she took shelter in a closet with her family and dog while the F-5 tornado blew through in April 2011. They opened the door after the storm passed to find that the closet was the only thing left standing.
Martin said he was “changed” by that visit which inspired him to quit his job as a church youth director to form DRAW whose mission is to provide relief services to communities that have been hit by natural disasters.
“A natural disaster is the only time in the human experience where a person or family goes from everyday life to rock bottom instantaneously,” Martin said. “We want to be an organization that is there with whatever those survivors need as soon as they need it. Our first response teams will sift through the remains of a house to salvage valuables, move a tree that has fallen and blocked them in their driveway, or just sit and listen as they grieve.”
New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac and to a tornado-damaged community in Indiana are other places DRAW volunteers have gone to help.
On those relief missions, which last about five days, Martin and crew learned that staples like water and donated clothing pile up quickly but needed items like towels, tarps and toiletries are often in short supply. To meet those needs, DRAW created seven customized relief buckets that are ready to go when needed.
The Patch Bucket, for example, is filled with a heavy tarp, hammer, roofing nails and neon spray paint to assist people needing to patch a hole in the roof.
The Valuables Bucket contains work gloves, plastic baggies, wet wipes, rags, dusk masks and other items used to help survivors salvage valuable such as Rick’s wedding album.
DRAW asks donors to “fill a bucket” at amounts varying from pocket change to $95.
Such donations helped DRAW fill 170 buckets for the Hurricane Sandy relief trip. Another $850 collected was spent on gift baskets of candy and toys for children at a New Jersey elementary school whose Trick or Treating was canceled by the storm, Martin said.
The three stages of disaster aftermath are response, relief and recovery, Martin said. The first stage is handled by emergency crews that rescue survivors and assess damage. The relief stage, lasting about ten times longer than the first stage, includes organizations like DRAW that bring supplies and assist with clean up. Recovery is the rebuilding phase and the longest, lasting about 10 times longer than the relief phase.
Martin told CAMS students they can help in three ways. One, is to buy a bucket or make a donation. The second is to volunteer to help. For insurance reasons, volunteers must be at least 18.
The third and easiest way to help is to “Like” the organization on its Twitter and Facebook pages. Social networks are the fastest way to get the word out when supplies or helping hands are needed, said Martin, who been making the rounds to schools and other groups to build up DRAW’s network. Recent visits included Grand Blanc Middle School and Journey Ministries in Davison.
Another way DRAW spreads the word stems from Martin’s musical background in two bands. They have formed a Drumline that performs at public events using empty Draw buckets.
To make a donation, visit htpp:/www.drawbuckets.org/index.html.