Logistics Key To Aid
After his experience with Hurricane Katrina, Fish said his new first objective for the relief and development agency based in Spring Lake is to send in a logistics team to establish a distribution center.
After the hurricane hit, Fish got a call from a construction company working on an Old Navy retail store in Hattiesburg, Miss. Construction was stopped because of the disaster, so the company offered the use of the building to International Aid as a warehouse and distribution center for relief supplies.
“We were the only ones in the area that had a facility like that,” Fish said. “It enabled us to be first responders literally to dozens of communities. This elevated our efforts tenfold.”
At the center, truckloads of donations were unloaded, repackaged and loaded onto smaller trucks, or onto a helicopter — which was donated for 10 days by Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos to reach remote areas.
Fish said the effects of having a distribution center took International Aid to a new level of disaster relief.
“Our contribution was multiplied over and over again simply because we had that distribution center.”
After seeing the success that International Aid had with the impromptu Hattiesburg distribution center, officials of Hancock County — located on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast — asked the organization to run their distribution center at Stennis International Airport. International Aid stayed at the Stennis site until mid-December, then turned the center back over to the county.
Though International Aid is still facilitating work groups and other volunteers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the organization is no longer running distribution centers. Fish said that $40 million in products were distributed through the organization from the centers.
Offers of help came like a chain reaction, with many different companies offering the use of trucks, some full of free products. One of the largest donations International Aid received was the help of 10 logistics employees from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. The Pfizer employees came to the site for two weeks.
Alticor donated the use of a company plane to transport personnel and supplies to the affected area.
“Alticor has been partnering with International Aid for over 15 years,” said Jesse Hertstein, Alticor supervisor of industry and community affairs. “We really have confidence in them that anything we donate to them will get right to the affected area.”
Hertstein said that International Aid was one of the first to meet the area’s disaster relief needs.
“International Aid has the perfect combination of size and logistical capacity and strategic partnerships to pinpoint the need and to be one of the first agencies to mobilize,” he said. “We knew that they would be able to have an immediate impact on the relief and recovery efforts.”
When it came to distribution, Fish said that logistics was everything, enabling the organization to prevent the “bottleneck” problems that so many people encountered when distributing supplies. Because International Aid had the facilities, it was able to overcome the challenges of distributing donations and supplies in an orderly fashion, keeping the relief effort running smoothly.
Fish said it was a privilege to be able to help the people of Mississippi through 200 distribution points along the coast. At each distribution point, Fish said, there were 50 to 100 people waiting for supplies to arrive, day after day.