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The Advocate: Connecticut Teamsters Lead State Relief Effort

The Advocate: Connecticut Teamsters Lead State Relief Effort

September 22, 2005

Two Teamsters have taken over organizing the donations for victims of Hurricane Katrina after the closing of the state armories, one of them said yesterday."We took over phase two for the governor," Richard Fantasia said.Fantasia and his partner, John Hollis, secured an 800,000 square-foot warehouse in Stratford that formerly served as a U.S. Army plant, Fantasia said.Gov. M. Jodi Rell is expected to announce the opening of the Teamster site today. A call to her office was not returned; however, a spokesman for U.S. Rep John Larson, D-East Hartford, confirmed the plan.The armories stopped accepting donations Sept. 9. As of Sept. 8, the state had sent 41 truckloads of relief supplies, and dozens of other trucks were being loaded at the time, according to a statement from Rell's office.Rell said at the time the state would wait for direction from the Gulf Coast, and a second phase of relief efforts would follow, taking into account long-term needs in that area and the needs of evacuees relocated to Connecticut.Since the warehouse opened Friday, 28 tractor-trailers have departed from the site; five are ready to leave; and there are enough goods to fill another 20, Fantasia said."The product that they have is what came out of the armories," Connecticut Food Bank Executive Director Nancy Carrington said, adding that some items were sent to a food bank. "We wouldn't be able to take in as much product as was left in the armories."Donations have been collected since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, but the goods don't always get to the right places, particularly with so many agencies involved, Carrington said."It is just chaos across the nation," she said. "Sometimes folks haven't thought ahead of what are they going to do with it once they get it."Some collectors, such as Marathon Healthcare Center of Norwalk, said yesterday they are still taking donations to the Norwalk Armory.Others are taking items to the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County in Stamford, which is accepting donations.Some have redirected donations to area agencies, such as The New Covenant House of Hospitality.Fantasia said state armories are directing donors to the new warehouse, though a reporter was turned away from the Norwalk Armory yesterday and directed to check the local newspaper for donation locations.The Teamsters are searching for new drop-off points throughout Connecticut, including fire stations, Fantasia said.Truckers will donate their time to take those items to Stratford, he said, and volunteers will sort and pack the items, as they did at the armories.Items will be distributed as they are requested by the Gulf states and emergency agencies, Fantasia said."The people in Connecticut have been amazing," said Fantasia, who like Hollis is donating his time. "So many people that have come forward to help out with this."Carrington said the evacuees' needs may be shifting away from the Gulf Coast as they move around the country.The state food bank is accepting only food, Carrington said.Many organizations are only accepting cash donations. Stamford stopped collecting items at the Government Center last week because the armory closed.The Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County, a subsidiary of the Connecticut Food Bank, continues to accept food, clothing, sheets and other items, which volunteers are packing to send to evacuees through America's Second Harvest.The local food bank, which assists 105 agencies in Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk and Wilton, is low on supplies for its own clients.All food drives are being earmarked for Katrina victims, said Kate Lombardo, executive director for the food bank in Stamford.Shelves at the 5,000-square-foot warehouse are depleting quickly, she said, at a time of year when they usually are full.Fantasia said the Teamsters need drivers with tractors that can deliver items to the Gulf Coast.They have trailers, and Rell is trying to arrange to pay for gas, Fantasia said."There are collections happening every time you turn around and that's a wonderful thing," Carrington said.

The article originally appeared inThe Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut) on September 20, 2005, and was written by Christiana Sciaudone.

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