By danny restivo
Some former Valley residents are using their friends at the township fire department to help victims of superstorm Sandy.
Shane and Melissa Hughes, formerly of Youngstown, live in Texas, but they have joined forces with some friends to help bring aid to a storm-ravaged borough of New York City.
“When I saw what was happening, I told Shane, ‘We have to do something,’” said Melissa, who was born and raised in Staten Island, N.Y., before she moved to the Youngstown area in 2001.
After seeing the devastation on TV, the couple, who have resided in Texas City, Texas, since 2006, posted a Facebook comment about gathering donations to help storm victims. Shane, a full-time firefighter, said he received a positive response from fellow firefighter Ralph McMahan, of Boardman.
“We absolutely had to help,” said McMahan.
McMahan is a Liberty Township firefighter and friend of the couple’s. He said he went to paramedic school with Shane and was willing to help in their effort to get aid to the East Coast.
The two orchestrated a donation drive that was spearheaded by the Liberty Township Fire Department, while Shane and Melissa would transport the items to the storm ravaged portions of her hometown in Staten Island.
The Liberty fire department, which started gathering blankets, food, toiletries, tools and other essentials earlier this week, already has filled two 24-foot U-haul trucks and is planning to fill a third before departing Saturday.
Melissa said she and her husband are staying with family in New Jersey, after they drove a truck full of supplies from Texas earlier this week. They said they plan on heading to Youngstown late today or early Saturday, before returning east.
Melissa said the couple is still seeking a driver for a potential third truck. She said they also are looking for monetary donations to help pay for gas and tolls. No matter what people offer, Shane and Melissa believe the Youngstown area has surpassed all their charitable expectations.
“It’s been amazing; the people have done so much for us,” she said. “This is why Youngstown will always have a piece of my heart and my husband’s heart.”
Anyone wanting to donate can visit the Liberty Fire Department, 4001 Logan Way, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today. Supplies needed include blankets, towels, pillows, clothing, diapers, children’s supplies, tools and nonperishable food items. For a monetary donation, go to helpsandyvictims.omnipotech.com.