Last Friday, Curtis Wheeler, general manager of Durham School Services in Davenport, said he got a chance to visit with some folks from the East Coast and hear their stories about the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.
“That’s when I started brainstorming a bit,” Wheeler said.
Durham runs the bus service for the Davenport Community School District. Wheeler said he wondered if he could get a school bus filled with goods and drive it to New York.
“I put something about it on Facebook on Friday afternoon, and it grew legs,” Wheeler said. “I reached out to our locations in Waterloo and Iowa City, too.
“In just six days, we managed to fill two school buses. These social media outlets, I never thought it would be that effective. Within hours, people who are friends with me started putting it on their pages.”
One of the people who picked up on it was Heidi Gilliland, a school administrative manager at Wilson Elementary School in Davenport.
Gilliland said she sent a message to the kids, their parents and the rest of the Wilson School community Tuesday afternoon and evening.
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, she said, the students helped fill one of the buses.
“Every single class came out to help,” Gilliland said. “A large amount of kids brought things.
“We loaded everything from toiletries, such as razors, shampoo, and soap, to baby diapers and formula. Many of the kids even gave the rest of their Halloween candy.
“But we also collected canned food, boxed food, clothes and blankets.”
One woman brought an entire truckload of stuff from a gym where she works, Gilliland said.
She added that, “Our Wilson kids aren’t done. They really have a picture that’s much bigger than them. Keep your ears out for something bigger. They aren’t done.”
Wheeler said the bus he took to Wilson was about half full when he got there. “When the kids showed up, they made it three-quarters full.”
The children learned a lot about giving, he added.
“It was an opportunity for these kids to learn that it’s not about how much you can give or how much you can do, it’s simply about doing something, anything,” Wheeler said. “One boy gave us 50 pennies. One little boy gave his favorite toy, a WWE action figure.”
While at another location, Wheeler said a man in a wheelchair came up and gave $1. It was all he had and could afford.
“I’ll bet he’s the richest man out there, and I don’t mean monetarily,” he said.
Even his drivers and monitors at Durham jumped to help, he said.
“I work with some of the most amazing people,” he said. “They just made this thing take off like nothing I’ve seen before.”
Luann DuVol, safety supervisor at Durham, said it was “absolutely marvelous” they way it all came together.
“He’s a good person,” DuVol said of Wheeler. “It’s a good cause, and he saw a need and wanted to fulfill it.”