WEIRTON - Community leaders are banding together to collect donations for the victims of Superstorm Sandy, which wreaked havoc in southern West Virginia as well as along the East Coast.
Dubbed "Weirton Cares," organizers hope to be able to transport vanloads of new or gently used blankets, toiletries and nonperishable food items to storm-ravaged areas on a weekly basis until the crisis is abated. Because many areas are still without electricity, the focus initially will be to raise money to buy ready-to-eat meals, otherwise known as "MREs," like those used by military in the field, for storm victims.
"Their major concerns are blankets and food," Ward 3 Councilman Fred Marsh said. "MREs are food our soldiers eat in the field that doesn't have to be cooked. We're not going to ask for nonperishable food items until they get their utilities back on line."
DONATIONS ACCEPTED— Weirton resident Mary Velegol, left, Ward 3 Councilman Fred Marsh, center, and Mayor George Kondik on Friday made plans to collect new and gently used blankets, toiletries and cash to help storm victims in southern West Virginia and along the East Coast. Donations will be accepted at the Madonna-Tug Valley Class A high school football playoff game today at Jimmy Carey Stadium, and during regular business hours at the Millsop Community Center, Marsh Pipe & Supply and WEIR-AM.
Weirton Salvation Army Capt. Ed Long, member of the planning committee, already has obtained a truckload of MREs from the Army's Florida division.
"They don't need them now, so they're releasing them to us," he said. "They're going to have them shipped directly to authorities (under Weirton Cares banner) in the storm-ravaged areas."
The need is extensive, however, and includes roughly 40 families left homeless in Nicholas County, W.Va., as well as countless others along the East Coast.
"This is a start, we just need to get the message out," Mayor George Kondik said. "It's going to be ongoing, until the crisis passes. This (first load) isn't the end, it's going to be an ongoing effort."
Kondik said he told the Brooke County Rotarians about the project earlier this week, "and within a matter of a half-hour they'd cut us a check for $250," he said. "This could mushroom into something really big."
Weirton Rotarians also are planning to help, long-time member Victor Greco said.
Donations will be accepted during regular business hours at Marsh Pipe & Supply, 3070 Pennsylvania Ave.; WEIR-AM, 2307 Pennsylvania Ave.; and Millsop Community Center, 3420 Main St.
Checks should be made payable to "Weirton Cares," in care of First Choice America, where a special "Weirton Cares" account has been established.
New and gently used blankets are desperately needed, Marsh said, as are toiletries and donations of cash with which they can purchase MREs.
Volunteers also will be accepting donations at the Madonna-Tug Valley Class A high school football playoff game today at 1:30 p.m. at Jimmy Carey Stadium.
Weirton resident Mary Velegol will be available to pick up donations for those who cannot get to any of the collection sites.
Marsh is arranging for the first vanload of donations to be transported to communities in need on Thursday. Volunteers will convene Wednesday evening to box the items collected.
For information, call (304) 797-8501; (304) 748-7212, or (304) 723-1444.