Earlier this year Blue Ridge Mountain Sports began collecting tents and tarps for Haiti. Shelter is in high demand with more than 750,000 people still homeless and hard rains coming. BRMS serves as the collection center for Convoy of Hope, an organization that has the means to ship supplies to Haiti.
"Be kind, have fun and do the right thing." BRMS and Ryan Baxter, the Knoxville location's market manager, followed this motto when the company decided to host a collection site for tarps and tents for Haiti.
"We take our motto very seriously, and in every aspect of life we try and follow it," Baxter said.
Kurt Peterson, BRMS's grassroots coordinator, agrees.
"Simply put, this was the right thing to do, and it is one in which we felt our customers would be most responsive to a need that is very urgent," he said.
Simply put, this was the right thing to do, and it is one in which we felt our customers would be most responsive to a need that is very urgent.
Kurt Peterson, Blue Ridge Mountain Sports grassroots coordinator
The regular BRMS customers have brought in supplies, but there have been different types of people bringing in new tarps and slightly used tents.
"Truck drivers, veterans, boy scouts, college students, they have all contributed at the Knoxville location. It's been great," Baxter said.
"Roughly 160 plus have been sent or will be sent by the end of this week. It's been mostly tents - everything from backpacking tents to large canvas army tents to 40x60' tarps," Peterson said.
Baxter said that college students have brought in their parents' old tents, dusted off from the attic or basement. Veterans have brought in army tents. Even truck drivers stop to drop off new tarps they buy for the occasion.
"We've received old tents that people haven't used in awhile, $500 Mountain Hardwear tents and new tarps from Home Depot and Target that people have just bought," Baxter said.
BRMS welcomes them all and with help from Convoy of Hope, they ship the tarps and tents to Haiti.
"When it comes to tent size, the larger the better, but smaller backpacking style tents do an excellent job of keeping their occupants dry even in a driving windy rain. So we're not turning anything down at this point as long as it is in good condition with all its parts accounted for," Peterson said.
And concerning tarps, Peterson said from 6x8 foot to 40x60' or bigger is preferable, and they must be new.
Once BRMS receive enough tarps and tents to fill a large box, the stores will ship them to Convoy of Hope.
"There are a lot of variables depending on size. We plan to have everything we've received so far shipped out by the end of February," Peterson said. "The response in some stores, including Knoxville, required us to ship them on pallets via UPS Freight."
BRMS encourages local people to act and think globally and that is what is happening. We've been very pleased with the response so far, and we hope to see it continue into the foreseeable future.
Ryan Baxter, Blue Ridge Mountain Sports local market manager
Convoy of Hope is a nonprofit organization. Since 1994, Convoy of Hope has helped nearly 30 million people in more than 103 countries and given away more than $150 million worth of food and supplies.
"BRMS wanted to help the Haitians with the rainy season and hurricane season coming. We thought shelter would be good. We knew Convoy of Hope is sending down supplies so we called them up," Baxter said.
According to Peterson, Convoy of Hope's Director of Procurement indicated that once the shipments are received in Missouri, it takes about 10 days before they arrive with other aid supplies at their warehouse outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
After Haiti's President, Rene Preval, called for 200,000 tents on Jan. 26, Convoy of Hope has shipped more than 12 large shipping containers of shelter as the rains approach.
"As the Grassroots Coordinator for Blue Ridge, I had been considering several options to help with aid relief shortly after the earthquake. When Haitian President Rene Preval made a plea for tents for his people, we began the tent drive 24 hours later based on feedback from Convoy of Hope," Peterson said.
There is no end date for the collection. According to Peterson, BRMS has every intention to keep the tent drive going until people stop giving.
"It's important for all of us to remember that even though it might not be the top story on the news, it doesn't mean that the need doesn't still exist. Be kind, have fun and do the right thing," Peterson said.