NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — The Hub City knows what kind of damage a major storm can cause.
But New Brunswick residents also know how critical charity is in the wake of such a disaster. While the city and the rest of New Jersey received help from far and wide after Superstorm Sandy in 2012, now some local leaders are stepping up to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
City Council President Glen Fleming said last night, at the panel's Sept. 6 meeting, that he and a small group of community leaders are soliciting donations to drive down to the battered Texas city.
The effort is meant to get aid directly to the people, dodging some nonprofits that he believes spend too much money on overhead or could engage in “bias treatment,” Tormel Pittman, a neighborhood activist who organized the drive, said.
“We're going to go down there and disperse the items ourselves,” he said. “I'm in touch with a person on the ground there who's giving us day-by-day information on the conditions. We've got a good read on it.”
Pittman, Fleming, Franklin Councilwoman Shanel Robinson and Ashton Burrell, an activist and community leader from Highland Park, have joined forces to collect donations.
Pittman set up a GoFundMe page to receive cash contributions. After one day, four people have donated $135 toward his $7,000 goal.
But it's not only about money. On Facebook today, Pittman published a list of desired items. Among them: toiletries, like soap, toothpaste, feminine products and more; clothing, including new socks, T-shirts and underwear, but no winter gear; non-perishable foods, like canned goods, ramen and peanut butter; and cleaning supplies.
Donors may drop off items from noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at Nu Trendz, 563 Somerset St., Somerset. They can also bring contributions to Franklin's Community Fire Company Station, 710 Hamilton St., Somerset, from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The group has yet to release a date for when it will make the trip down. But they're working out the details with Houston locals.
“Once we get there, we will be received in a great manner,” Pittman said. “It's a great effort.”
This isn't Pittman's first go at grassroots charity. In early 2016, he led an effort to bring bottled water to Flint, Michigan, after its lead crisis came to light. That group ultimately drove to the city to deliver the supplies.
Fleming and Pittman encouraged others to give.
Further, the council president said, it's time to give back—and to do so without falling victim to a scam.
“We could be affected by [a hurricane] anytime,” Fleming said. “People were generous giving to our area.”