CEDAR RAPIDS — Riley Larson says the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas has hit close to home for residents of Cedar Rapids who lived through the 2008 and 2016 floods.
“Anytime you’ve had experience with something like this, it is really amplified,” said Larson, general manager at JMS Transportation, a Cedar Rapids trucking company owned by his parents, Shelly and Scott Larson.
In response to Harvey — a storm that has dumped more than 50 inches of rain on the Houston area and claimed numerous lives — JMS Transportation has organized a supply drive with plans to pack a 53-foot trailer that will head to Texas next week.
“I have a friend in Houston who is volunteering at one of the shelters there,” said Riley Larson. “He’s been keeping me up to date on what is needed.”
Officials in Houston have said the items most needed are sweaters and sweatshirts, socks, packaged and ready-to-eat food, blankets, pillows, towels, diapers, formula, toothbrushes and toothpaste, first aid supplies, medical gloves, feminine products, shampoo and conditioner and hand sanitizer.
Larson said items can be dropped off at JMS Transportation, 5650 Sixth St. SW, from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. He expects to have one of the company drivers on the road by the middle of next week.
“The time frame is kind of up in the air,” he said. “It depends on how fast we can get the trailer filled. I’d obviously like to get it down there as soon as possible to help the people, but I don’t want to send a half-full truck.”
The company also is collecting donations through a GoFundMe page. As of Wednesday evening, 30 donors had contributed more nearly $2,000. Larson said the money will be used to purchase supplies on the list.
He said several donations already had been dropped off at the company offices by Wednesday afternoon and he planned to have the trailer parked outside the office soon.
“Two to three folks this morning dropped off supplies,” Larson said. “We have some prepackaged food, cases of water and quite a bit of clothes — three to four boxes.
“Several other companies have reached out to us saying they are going to lead drives at their businesses and bring over what they collect.”
Founded in 1992, Larson said JMS Transportation has a fleet of about 100 trucks, about 120 drivers and 18 office employees. He said the company primarily serves the Midwest, but they have trucked goods outside that area, including to Texas.
“It’s been a while since we went to Texas,” he said, noting the trip from Cedar Rapids to Houston is about 1,000 miles.
Larson said his parent’s company donated trailers to help out churches and businesses in Cedar Rapids during the 2008 and 2016 flood events, but has never been directly involved in responding to a natural disaster in another state like this.
“My in-laws were hit by the 2008 flood; they had 4 feet of water on the main level of their home,” said Larson. “We had to pretty much rebuilt it.
“Something like this hits home for those of us who went through it in 2008.”
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