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OPINION: Industry shines in Sandy relief effort

I often tell people I have the best job on Earth.

I get to meet all kinds of people, ask all kinds of intrusive questions that get answered more often than not and write about something different every day. It was a job created for people with ADHD, and covering the marine industry is all the better; boat people are fun.

But when Hurricane Sandy blew through, it changed things a bit. For reporters, getting to cover disasters is instinct. You want to document and record and tell people’s stories.

Being allowed the freedom I’m afforded by my editors allowed me to follow Sandy, which was certainly preferable to post-9/11, when I was in between Associated Press gigs and didn’t get to cover the event at all.

But it’s tough, too.

I personally knew people suffering, like a friend who texted me desperately in a moment of cell reception. She has three kids, the youngest of whom is a baby with Down syndrome who had open heart surgery as an infant. She couldn’t get help from local officials, who kept telling her in vain to go to a shelter.

“Germs are the enemy! He gets sick and he’s automatically admitted to the hospital!” she texted.

Another friend’s brother was sleeping on the floor of his Long Island apartment next to his Siberian Husky to keep warm, a shotgun at his side to thwart looters.

The stories were all horrible, until I got an email from Prop Talk Magazine asking me if I would want to write about Jim Maier at BOE Marine in Maryland.

Jim had organized the Boaters for Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort with some area marine businesses and their clients were dropping off donations in spades. Initially he sent four of his own trucks up to a devastated area of New Jersey, but then he got more donations.

New Jersey-based marine distribution company Mesco offered to start doing the trucking back and forth. It grew. More companies jumped in, like Alliance Marine Group, Chick-fil-A, Annapolis Harbor Boat Yard and others.

This embodies what I love about the marine industry. The whole concept that you help out your fellow humans is inherent here.

These are business owners and I think we all know about how much free time we all have in our days.

I mentioned to Jim that I’d like to help and, boom, it was happening. I was going to get a Mesco truck to Natick, Mass., to fill. This was Friday. It was coming on Monday. I couldn’t say no. All I could think of is families shivering, no food, on Week 2.

I agreed, not even thinking that I was leaving for Orlando on Sunday. My husband, Dave Fish, immediately stepped up and said no problem. He collected money at his workplace, Mercator Advisory Group, and I sent emails to everyone I knew. I went to BJ’s and bought $350 worth of stuff, throwing in only $150 of our own since BJ’s gave me a $50 gift card.

Another local business, Tilly & Salvy’s Bacon Street Farm (a Natick institution since 1938 and an old-school grocer) stepped up with a huge donation, even though owner Rick Ciccarelli told me they don’t stock in bulk. I boxed and sorted and labeled until 1:30 a.m., even though I had an 8:30 flight. The sheer number of emails I’ve answered is tremendous.

The donations rolled in, but not enough to fill a semi-truck. We went to Plan B, though the email circulation continued.

We heard that the Natick VFW was sending a Pod down, so Dave loaded every inch of space in my van and took it over. They were beside themselves with gratitude, he said. We nearly filled the Pod on behalf of the Boaters for Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort.

The donations continue to come to our home. I feel like Jim summed it up best when he said, “We’ll keep sending stuff until we run out or until they don’t need it.” Us, too.

I know people get discouraged about the goodness of people, but efforts like the one in Maryland sure give me faith to the contrary.

— Reagan Haynes



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