Paxton Van Lines, in conjunction with Maersk Lines, joined again in the humanitarian effort in support of the 2015 American Turkish Friendship Association Syrian Refugee Blanket Drive. This year’s project involved some 35 Paxton employees and drivers during November and December starting with the delivery of 4,000 boxes to 50 collection sites throughout Virginia, Baltimore, and the Washington, DC metropolitan area. The team collected and loaded over 4200 boxes from 65 collections points, and managed the staging in the Paxton warehouse while receiving an additional 700 boxes from local organizations, inbound trailer loads from New Jersey and New York, and 3 freight shipments from Embrace Relief in California.
The Paxton Van Lines drivers delivered 9 trailer loads with over 4900 boxes to the DAMCO facility, a distribution service owned and operated by Maersk Lines who then donated the container service to Turkey. In total, there were 14 containers with a little over 144,000 pounds of donated blankets and clothing items. The 2015 total was an overwhelming 104,000 pounds higher than the previous 2014 donations.
The original project started in the fall of 2013 with a delegation of Northern Virginia elected officials who travelled to Turkey as guests of the American Turkish Friendship Association. As a part of that journey the delegation visited a Syrian refugee camp in Adana, Turkey (approximately 125 miles from the Syrian border). As the result of seeing the conditions in the camp and with input from on the ground organizations helping the refugees, the delegation initiated a blanket drive. Over a three week period some 29,000 pounds of blankets were collected and sent to Turkey for distribution. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
With the conflict in Syria and Iraq becoming more violent and the number of refugees in Turkey more than doubling to over 2 million, the group once again sponsored a blanket drive in 2014 at which time some 39,180 pounds of donations were collected. In 2015 the drive was expanded to 13 states and the District of Columbia nearly tripling the donated materials from the previous year. A recent article in the Loudon Times-Mirror cited, “if the boxes containing the goods were stacked on top of each other they would exceed 1 mile in height - the equivalent of more than 16 Statues of Liberty stacked on top of each other.”
“The drive has been a true community effort from the beginning with local governments, civic organizations, the faith community and many others helping to make it a success. We are particularly grateful to Paxton and Maersk both who have donated their services for this project,” said Robert Lazaro of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC), and also serves on the Fairfax County Chamber Board. When Lazaro returned to Adana, Turkey in 2014, he met a Syrian English teacher, who like many of his colleague was forced to flee his country. The teacher wrote, “Thank you very much to the reverend and generous American people. The Syrian refugees are really in need of this kind of support. I have seen the wonderful impact of the former shipment. Many thanks again from Syrian children to all Americans.”
[Pictured above are Bill Paxton, COO and Rebecca Good at the Paxton warehouse/staging site, and Syrian children refugees in Turkey.]