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Trucks head to Houston with supplies and good will from Boston

Volunteers from all over Boston rushed to sort and package donated supplies to Hurricane Harvey victims in Houston at City Hall Plaza.Nicholas Pfosi for The Boston Globe

Just 12 hours after being released from a six-week stay battling a MRSA infection at a Boston hospital, Skip Baldwin climbed into his tractor trailer and started the 1,888-mile trip to storm-ravaged Houston, hauling a trailer full of donated goods.

“How can you say ‘No’ to something noble?’’ the 57-year-old Baldwin said in explaining why he and his employer, G/J Carting of Revere, have donated his time and the company’s equipment to haul supplies collected in Greater Boston to Texas where thousands are living in shelters.

Baldwin was one of dozens of people volunteering time and money in response to Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s campaign to help residents of Houston, where historic rains from Hurricane Harvey have forced the evacuation and rescues of thousands of people.


City Hall Plaza was seemingly busier than an Amazon warehouse Friday — and it sounded like a warehouse, too. Back-up alarms from Bobcat vehicles rang across the red brick plaza, and occasionally a city official would use a bullhorn to instruct volunteers, but mostly shouting was the preferred means of communication.

“Watch your back!’’ shouted one volunteer as a Bobcat was maneuvered around stacks of boxes. “Watch your back!”

And a few minutes later, more shouting was heard, accompanied by a back-up alarm. “Make a hole!’’ a volunteer shouted. “Make a hole!”

Rene Fielding, director of the Walsh administration’s emergency management, said Houston city officials have given specific directions on where to send the region’s donations.

“It’s going right to the NRG [Stadium],’’ said Fielding, referring to a mega shelter for 10,000 people. “There are thousands of residents there.”

Fielding said the donations collected around the city and at City Hall were sorted by volunteers — diapers with diapers, cleaning goods with cleaning goods — and then packed into boxes, carefully labeled to make clear what is inside.


“We are going through and sorting it so the second it gets down there, it can immediately be used at the shelter,’’ she said. “It’s already sorted for them so they can kind of rock and roll when it arrives.”

The donations did generate a small mountain of used clothing that won’t be sent to Houston because of sanitary concerns. But most donations were spot on, according to volunteers, who reported a wealth of diapers (including the adult variety), dog food, children’s blankets, baby formula, skids of water, electrical equipment, and a wet-vac or two.

“It wasn’t just people getting rid of their old stuff,” said Anita M. Harris, a Cambridge resident who volunteered. “It was very thoughtful.”

City officials estimated they collected more than 20 tons of goods and are also getting volunteer help from Teamsters Local 25, which is donating three tractor trailer units driven by retired Teamsters as part of the City Hall effort.

Baldwin said he is hauling an estimated 40,000 pounds of goods in his trailer, which was packed “wall to wall, tree-top tall” to the ceiling and to within inches of the back door.

Baldwin, who declared “I love to drive,’’ said he expects to spend 36 hours driving toward Houston and will probably drive some 750 miles a day during the trip.

“I’ve been helped a lot of times in my life. I’ve been down and out quite a bit throughout,’’ he said. “Somebody has always been there to help me. So, it’s kind of my way of paying it forward — to someone who needs the help now.”


Kevin Velez of Lawton Welding (left) loaded his company's truck with the help of his son (far right) and volunteers from the Boston Housing Authority and Boston Public Works.Nicholas Pfosi for The Boston Globe

John R. Ellement can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.