Fireworks trucks fill up with donations
Phantoms players said people returned two or three times, dropping off items, then buying more.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- Bruce Zoldan just wanted to fill a few trucks with bottled water and granola bars to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
He said he should have known better.
"The response has been unbelievable," said Zoldan, president of the B.J. Alan Co. "People are calling from everywhere to help."
Zoldan decided to put Phantom Fireworks trucks to good use in the fireworks off-season and take bottled water and other needed items south to hurricane victims.
On Wednesday, Zoldan told The Vindicator and other area media of his plans to place three trucks at the Ice Zone. Zoldan had the trucks in the Ice Zone parking lot Thursday morning as promised and enlisted the company's Mahoning Valley Phantoms hockey team and coaches to provide the muscle to sort items and load boxes onto the trucks.
Plans were to fill the three trucks and then take them to The Salvation Army at Hattiesburg, Miss., an area hit hard by Katrina, but accessible.
By Thursday afternoon, the new plan was to fill as many trucks as possible and collect items at the Ice Zone from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Monday, and also at the Village Plaza at U.S. Route 422 and state Route 46 in Niles from noon to 7 p.m. Friday.
Phantoms players estimated that by about 6 p.m. about 150 vehicles had been through the Ice Zone lot.
Phantoms player Jason Simota of Livonia, Mich., said it felt good to be doing something to help the hurricane victims. He said he was amazed to see people bringing not just a few packs of bottled water, but several cases. He and his teammates saw several people return two or three times, dropping off items, then buying more.
Bob Mainhardt, Phantoms head coach and general manager, said he canceled practice and a day of training so the players could participate. "They have a chance to fulfill their dream of playing hockey, but doing this is more important," he said.
Phantoms players are young men 16 to 20 who aspire to play college and professional hockey. Team members arrived about two weeks ago and will be in the Mahoning Valley through April.
"We've been out here since 8:30 this morning, and now we're all sunburned," said Wes Ewer, a Phantoms defenseman from Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
"We're all working a lot harder out here than we do on the ice. That's not much compared to what the victims are going through. Everyone wants to help. The quick response from the people here is just phenomenal."
Mainhardt said the team has three preseason games at the Ice Zone this weekend. People can donate items in the parking lot and then see a free hockey game. Game times are 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday.
Major James Foley of The Salvation Army in Youngstown has been in contact with Major Danny and Major Dawn Herd, corps commanders at The Salvation Army Hattiesburg Corps. It is not a large facility, but in the past two days it has served nearly 16,000 meals, including about 1,200 people each in two sittings Thursday.
Lisa Schumacher of Austintown brought about 40 grocery bags full of food and supplies donated by about 65 people in a senior citizens' apartment complex.
"These people have limited incomes, but they were eager to help," Schumacher said. "Some of them went to the store, but a lot of them just opened their cupboards. They all said they want to donate again if asked."
Regina Neff of Salem came to the Ice Zone to spend the day helping because she rode out three hurricanes when she lived in North Carolina.
"There is just a sense of frustration and helplessness because there's nothing you can do," she said. "You feel isolated because you don't know what's happening. The power is out, and there's no way to get any news. When the last hurricane was over, we all went down to the street to a convenience store for a candy bar just because the road was open. The store was full of people buying coffee and candy bars. Everyone just wanted to get out doing the same thing. They just wanted to get out and see people. They just wanted to talk to somebody."