As the second-generation co-owner of Stock Transport, a Lebanon, IL-based trucking company, Rob Stock knew he had the resources to help victims of Hurricane Harvey. So, he put out the word for donations of supplies and expected to spend a day taking a truck or two to the Houston area, as he’s done for a few prior storms.
That was two weeks, 680,000 pounds of supplies and 360,000 prepackaged meals ago.
In the days since, Stock and a group of employees and volunteers have trucked 18 loads of donations to various Texas towns. Among those loads: 50,000 pounds of water, 20 pallets of diapers and 30 round bales of hay delivered to the Galveston County Fair Grounds and Rodeo facility, which is serving as a makeshift livestock and animal shelter.
“This started off with a Facebook post on August 28. That post was shared over 500 times and the “Stock the Trailer” campaign was started,” he tells PEOPLE.
This past weekend, he had another six loads ready to roll – three going to Texas as residents begin to rebuild and three headed to South Florida in preparation for Hurricane Irma’s arrival.
Stock owes much of the campaign’s success to a chance connection with Luke Levine, Associate Pastor at St. Louis, MO’s Apostolic Pentecostal Church, Chaplain for the Arnold Police Department and volunteer Disaster Relief Coordinator for Compassion Services International (CSI).
“I was coordinating an effort through our St. Louis office and he was coordinating something similar in Illinois,” Levine tells PEOPLE.
The match proved fortuitous. Stock had the trucks and manpower to haul multiple tons of supplies while Levine and CSI boasted an expansive network of contacts, including more than 200 churches in Texas alone, needing those supplies.
“We partner with churches, fire stations and police stations and our goal was to fill a 20-foot UHaul container,” Levine said. With Stock’s help, “We ended up sending five tractor trailers down, fast and furious.”
Together, Stock and Levine have focused on identifying and serving areas largely missed by organizations like the Red Cross. Those higher-profile organizations typically head first for more concentrated urban areas, and with good reason, as those areas hold far bigger populations of people in need. Once set up is complete, storm victims typically must find their way to those centers for help.
CSI instead focuses on smaller, more rural communities that may be forced to wait weeks for relief. The organization establishes distribution centers in remote areas where volunteers in smaller vehicles pick up and deliver donations to victims.
“Some of the groups we’ve been able to serve are Spanish-speaking churches where the congregants are all immigrants that nobody is paying attention to,” Levine said. “I called one, asked the pastor, ‘Can you use supplies?’ He said, ‘Yes, we have nothing.’ And this was six or seven days after Hurricane Harvey hit.”
Over the next several weeks, Levine and CIS will focus on organizing donations of money and building supplies to Texas, where residents will begin rebuilding; and on coordinating the more immediate needs of those in Florida and other areas hit by Hurricane Irma.
Inspired in part by his 2-year-old daughter, Aurora Rose, Stock says he’ll continue relief efforts as long as they’re needed, despite the steep costs to his company. Harvey relief efforts alone have set him back some $17,000 in hard costs such as fuel and employee pay, plus another $20,000 in revenue that would have been generated via normal business operations.
“These people have lost everything – literally had their homes and lives destroyed,” Stock said. “I can only imagine what I would be going through in that situation, trying to provide for my family. My sacrifice, while some people have lost everything, seems miniscule. It really does.”