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‘This is how you pay it forward’

GREENFIELD — When a group of Franklin County residents heard of the devastation in other parts of the east caused by Hurricane Sandy in late October, they knew they had to do something.

So, a couple of weeks ago, a convoy of eight trucks filled with necessities and about 20 people left Greenfield at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning and traveled to Long Island, N.Y. to help.

“We started talking about doing something one week, and less than a week later word had gotten out and we found ourselves with an overwhelming outpour from the great people of Franklin County and beyond,” said Barbara Rode, who organized the drive with her husband, Greg, some relatives and some friends.

The Rodes, with the help of local media, asked people to drop off non-perishables, clothes, and any other items they thought victims of the storm might need.

The Rodes, who had help from their four children, a nephew and three teens from Mohawk Trail Regional High School, as well as Greenfield’s Precinct 3 Town Councilor Brickett Allis, James and Marisa Dalmaso-Rode, and Lisa and Edward Muenkel, ended up taking six truckloads of necessities and two carloads of volunteers to New York. They got a state police escort from Greenfield to the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line.

“We filled three Penske 26-foot trucks, two Fed Ex trucks, a 10-foot box trailer and pickup, and two vehicles filled with people,” said Rode.

She said when the drive started people were going to drop off items at Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenfield, but it ended up they brought items there and Turners Falls High School, WHAI radio station in Greenfield, different offices and banks, and Foster’s Supermarket, to name a few locations.

“It was unbelievable,” she said.

People donated clothes, diapers, food and more, she said.

Rode said when the group of about 20 arrived in New York, it went straight to the church organizers had made arrangements with and there they found 200 more volunteers waiting to help unload and distribute the items.

“There were Boy Scouts and lots of others, all ready to go,” said Rode.

Those who traveled from the county spent hours helping unload, but that wasn’t enough for them — after that task was done, they went to one of the harder hit areas of New York City and started helping people clean up and gut their homes and apartments.

“This is how you pay it forward,” said Rode. “You keep it going this way.”

She said words can’t describe the devastation they saw, but Allis tried.

“It was absolute devastation,” said Allis. “The streets were strewn with toys and trash bags, furniture and clothes.”

He said there were Dumpsters at the end of every driveway.

“It was absolutely unbelievable,” said the Greenfield town councilor. “You just wanted to cry because it looked like a war zone.”

“There were hundreds of people walking around with nothing else to do,” he said.

Allis and Rode said their group spent many more hours helping people who “were smiling when we left.”

Allis said the Franklin County volunteers, who wore T-shirts that read, “MASS CARES: Neighbors helping Neighbors,” couldn’t go 15 minutes without a hug or a “thank you.”

“Many of these people lost everything,” said Allis. “Everything.”

Rode said there were so many individuals, businesses and organizations that made their venture successful, she can’t begin to thank them in the article for their generosity, because she doesn’t want to forget anyone.

“People really step up when you need them to,” she said.

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