Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson said Bobby Pate of Erwin-based Pate Trucking Co. initiated the drive late last week with a request for help pinpointing one of the smaller towns outside Houston that Pate had heard were hard hit by the hurricane and not getting as much attention in the relief effort.
Tilson immediately put in a call to Brian Garland, a good friend in Humble, Texas, whom he served with in the Marine Corps and was communicating with during the hurricane.
Garland, who is originally from Jonesborough, connected Tilson with John Barrera, a minister at First Assembly of God in Mathis, Texas, a small town southeast of Houston.
When Tilson learned Mathis was working with ministers of other churches in that area to set up relief supply distribution points for storm victims, he put out a request for donations on social media and the donations began rolling in.
The department is requesting donations of cleaning supplies, diapers and wipes, water, non-perishable food supplies and toiletries which may be dropped off at its offices on the lower level of Erwin Town Hall at any hour and on any day of the week
As for clothing, Tilson said, “Our focus is mainly on new socks, underwear and T-shirts.”
The police department also is collecting monetary donations for fuel for the truck, which is tentatively scheduled to leave Erwin for Mathis on Sunday night.
Any donations in excess of the estimated $1,500 in fuel needed for the trip will be used for additional relief supplies and possibly for a second semitruck run to Texas.
Johnson City residents who wish to contribute will have the opportunity at 9 a.m Friday at the Kroger store on Sunset Drive where Pate and his son, Paul, will be picking up $4,500 worth of relief supplies purchased by Freedom Baptist Church of Erwin.
Donations also will be collected Sunday from 1-3 p.m in the parking lot of the former Elms Restaurant on the corner of Elm and Love streets in downtown Erwin.
“We truly appreciate it,” Tilson said of the collection of relief supplies and cash donations gathered so far.
“We’ve been in contact with some of the people down there in Texas and they are very appreciative of what they are going to be receiving. And we do appreciate Pate Trucking. We could not do this without them.”
Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.