By ANGELA PRICE Special from the Bay Times
STEVENSVILLE — Two Eastern Shore firefighters are members of Heroes for the Homeland disaster relief organization and will spend a week assisting with tornado clean up efforts in Illinois at the end of this month.
At least 16 tornadoes struck Illinois and northwest Indiana on Nov. 17, killing six people, injuring dozens of others and damaging or destroying fourteen hundred houses.
Blaine Slacum of Bay City, a firefighter in Anne Arundel County, and Justin Davis, a life member of the Grasonville Volunteer Fire Department, have been working with local businesses to establish sites for residents to drop off donations to help those devastated by the recent disaster.
Heroes for the Homeland, a 501c3 nonprofit, is made up of law enforcement and emergency services personnel and prioritizes helping the families of first responders who are affected by the disaster so the local emergency workers can focus on helping the community.
“As first responders, they are out there taking care of everybody else,” Slacum said. “So, we want to take care of first responders families, so they don’t have to worry.”
However, the group’s assistance is not limited to those families. They try to help anyone who has been affected, Davis said.
Members also work in the clean up for the disaster-struck communities.
The organization got its start after Hurricane Sandy; it was founded by Chris Johnson, a Prince George’s County Police detective. Slacum and Davis got to know one another while volunteering with Sandy relief efforts in Crisfield.
A team of a dozen or more volunteers, including Slacum and Davis, will leave for Illinois on Nov. 30 with trailers filled with supplies. Donations are coming from all around the region. One church in Lynchburg, Va., has collected a large pallet of ladders and dog food, Davis said.
“The biggest need right now is money,” Slacum said. Cash and gift cards for food and gas rank high on the needs list. Monetary donations will help cover both the costs of the trip — estimated at more than $3,000 — and provide additional supplies to those who need them.
Donations needed include: monetary donations/gift cards; work gloves; dust masks; hand warmers; cleaning supplies; personal hygiene items; first aid supplies; baby supplies (diapers, wipes); tools, such as rakes and shovels; chainsaws and other power tools; lights; trash bags; unexpired non-perishable foods; new black work boots; and storage bins.
Drop off locations on the Shore include: A-Shore Out Bail Bonds, 100 N. Liberty St.,
Centreville; Western Tire & Auto, 1406 Main St., Chester; Crossbones Tattoo & Body Piercing, 305 Saddler Road, Grasonville; and Best Western Plus Easton Inn & Suites, 8708 Alicia Dr., Easton.
The deadline to drop of donations is Nov. 29.
Davis said anyone who would like to donate but who can’t get to one of the drop off locations can call him at 410-829-2821 and he will come pick it up.
Heroes for the Homeland has partnered with Wives Behind the Badge, an organization of wives of law enforcement officers, for the Illinois effort. Wives Behind the Badge has arranged for a house to be donated where volunteers can stay while they are assisting in the clean up.
Eventually the organization would like to get enough supplies built up “that we can drop wheels and go” whenever there’s a disaster without having to wait to collect supplies, Slacum said. Heroes for the Homeland lists its mission: to assist men, women and children in American communities affected by disaster by providing essential supplies and cleanup assistance during recovery efforts. The organization’s vision is to “foster the American spirit of citizens helping
one another in times of hardship; and work to ensure that no American is alone when disaster strikes.”