Tornado relief from New Castle ‘awesome gesture’
What started with a text message led to a truckload of relief supplies sent last week from New Castle to tornado victims in Moore, Okla.
“It’s wonderful. I mean it’s an awesome gesture … and it’s going to be much appreciated,” said Robert Crain, Moore’s assistant fire marshal.
The idea of somehow helping the victims of the deadly May 20 storm first was dreamed up by New Castle resident Grady Hazelton, 46, who owns the Wing Nutz Bar and Grill and Mulligan’s at Rifle Creek restaurants in the Rifle area.
“I just started thinking about what it would be like to send something out to them,” Hazelton said.
He thought about trucks, which led to a text to his friend, Keith Gilstrap, owner of the Rifle-based Gilco Transportation company. Soon the vision of filling one of Gilstrap’s semitrailers with goods to ship southeast was born.
Word of the effort went out, and collection centers were set up at Wing Nutz, the River Center community outreach program in New Castle, the Glenwood Springs Mall and the Orchard Church in Carbondale.
Hazelton also made a visit to Aspen thrift stores that encouraged him to take some clothing.
By Wednesday, about 20 pallets of goods were ready to go at the Pepsi distribution center in New Castle. Pepsi topped off the load with about four pallets of its products and the truck hit the road, driven by volunteer drivers from Utah who operate trucks for Gilstrap. Garfield County petroleum distributor Mike Fattor donated the fuel.
“The (community) response, it’s exactly what I expected it to be,” Hazelton said. “… When somebody puts something into action, people really jump in to help out.”
Said Crain, “The amount of outpouring from people around the nation has been amazing and Grady and his group certainly fall within that category.”
Hazelton was put in touch with Crain early in the process, and as a result quickly changed his goal from gathering initial-response supplies, such as flashlights and work gloves, to seeking donations for things people need to re-establish their lives, such as household items for rental units while their homes are rebuilt.
The mile-wide tornado, with winds that topped 200 mph, tore through Moore and the surrounding area, causing widespread damage and killing two dozen people.
Crain, whose family lost a car but not its home in the tornado, expressed sympathy for what Coloradans are now going through with wildfires. He said the city of Moore hopes to some day be on the giving end when it comes to meeting disaster relief needs.
“Although a lot of people are helping (Moore), there’s a lot of people to be helped, and it’s really appreciated. We hope to be able to someday be able to give back,” he said.