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South Carolina TV Reporter Chronicles Sandy Relief Flights
November 16, 2012
A South Carolina television reporter rode along on a Nov. 4 airlift conducted by volunteer pilots and coordinated through general aviation disaster relief organization AERObridge. The flights were part of an impressive effort, involving several entities, which eventually saw more than 12,000 pounds of food, water and other critical supplies delivered to victims from “Superstorm” Sandy.
"This was an effort involving several organizations and a lot of people," said Greg Stidom, field director of emergency services for AERObridge in North and South Carolina. "We were very concerned about providing basic needs like food, water, and blankets for victims of Superstorm Sandy."
As the storm made landfall Oct. 31, Stidom coordinated with the Columbia, SC-based Harvest Hope food bank to gather supplies to send to New Jersey. That effort received a boost when local CBS affiliate WLTX ran a 30-minute telethon Nov. 2 to gather cash donations. Two more telethons, with South Carolina State Guard (SCSG) volunteers staffing the phones, ran the following Monday and Tuesday.
"Over the course of one-and-a-half hours, South Carolinians donated $10,800 to purchase needed supplies," Stidom noted. "We also realized that there were some supplies they needed much quicker, especially with the nor'easter that was forecast the following week.
"The decision was made to operate a special airlift Nov. 4," he continued. "Four aircraft ([a TBM 700, Cessna 310, and two Piper PA28s]) flew 2,300 pounds of supplies total from Columbia to Eagles Nest Airport ([31E]) in West Creek, NJ."
WLTX reporter Steven Dial also flew along with Stidom to chronicle the airlift. SCSG personnel worked alongside other volunteers, including pilots from Georgia EAA Chapter 690, to load the aircraft.
In the days following the airlift, additional plans were made to fly more supplies into the area the following weekend. However, ground routes to the affected areas reopened Nov. 8, making ground transportation a more feasible option.
AERObridge paid for a truck from Ocala, FL-based Crossroads Alliance and Ministries to drive in, and take 9,932 pounds of supplies to Mahwah, NJ. Those supplies were delivered Nov. 10.
"From the time we first became involved until the roads opened last Thursday, the best way to get goods to the affected areas was by air," Stidom stated. "Everyone involved feels they've made an extremely beneficial contribution to the lives affected by Sandy."
AERObridge estimates it has flown nearly 100 aircraft with more than 50,000 pounds of supplies onboard, and assisted with an additional 70,000 pounds of donations being driven into affected areas of New York and New Jersey. "We also connected our ground distribution partners with over 75,000 pounds of locally available donations," added AERObridge President Marianne Stevenson.