MADISONVILLE, KY (11/15/12) - Somewhere in between the rolling mountains of Appalachia, he thinks in West Virginia, Harold Toney’s cell phone had enough reception to contact Pastor Ken Bledsoe of Calvary Baptist Church in Aberdeen Township, NJ. Toney, along with his son Hopkins County Magistrate Chris Toney as well as Mike Camacho and Eric Wardrip, all of Madisonville, had loaded two trailers with food and supplies and were in route to a destination unknown. They did, however, have a general direction in mind: A Hurricane Sandy-ravaged east coast.
Pastor Bledsoe was unaware that he and those his church was helping would be the recipients of this charity, which was modest relative to the grand scale of the disaster but would end up meaning so much to those it affected.
Following Sandy’s landfall, Harold felt called to organize the trip and enlisted Chris’ help.
“When Dad called me and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to load some trailers up and go. Do you want to go?’ I said sure,” Chris recalled. “Mike and Eric were on board without hesitation, and Dad reminded me that people were diving through dumpsters for food … It’s sad that we have anyone in America diving through a dumpster at any given time, whether it’s a disaster or not.”
With a sense of urgency, the two pickup trucks with their 5x10 and 6x15 foot covered trailers were loaded with food and supplies from Kroger and Wal-Mart in Madisonville. The Kroger store manager gave Harold a discount on the food, mostly nonperishable items with some bread trays and other fresh items packaged in a way that would allow it to be easily distributed. Kroger also donated several flats of bottled water. Paper towels, toilet paper, blankets, diapers, socks, sweats, and pillows were some of the other supplies purchased between the two stores, and the trucks were laden and riding low from the weight of it all.
They departed late that Saturday night, November 3rd, and in their haste, “… didn’t really know where the drop point would be,” said Harold. “We drove to somewhere between Lexington and Ashland, and we had to pull in a rest stop and try to get in a little power nap. We are all pretty tired at that point.”
His wife Renee called the next morning when the crew was back en route, and he asked her to find a contact in the NJ/NY area. After an internet search, she discovered several sites, including the North American Mission Board, which listed a NJ Baptist church as command post for assistance efforts and housing volunteers. The church pastor referred Renee to Calvary, which was not only in need of the supplies but was organized and ready to receive and distribute the goods.
So, when Pastor Bledsoe got that call, Harold said he was “ecstatic” to hear that some relief was on the way. “He said that they needed everything that we had. He asked us what we needed, and I said that all we needed was to be unloaded when we got there.”
As the trucks approached their destination, they made a tactical choice to gas up in PA as close as they could get to NJ. Gas was being rationed, and they risked becoming stranded if they couldn’t get in and out on a single 25 gallon tank’s worth. Bledsoe had warned them that hotels and gas were all but unavailable within a certain radius of his church.
The crew arrived at 7:30 Sunday night at the church, which was situated three miles from the Jersey Shore. They didn’t go further than the church, having no interest in seeing the devastation. “I saw enough of that on television,” Harold said. “Our focus was to get the stuff up there as quickly as possible to make a difference and then get back out.”
Not to mention, the four were exhausted from the trip. “When we arrived, we had been up for thirty-something hours. We were all kind of goofy,” laughed Chris.
Harold said that the volunteers were “highly mobilized” upon their arrival, ready with 40-50 people who formed a fire-line and had the trailers unloaded in 30-45 minutes.
“The interesting thing about it, as I was talking with the pastor when the trailers were being unloaded, was that three families in the church had completely lost their entire houses and everything in them—and, they were in that fire-line unloading.” To him, that kind of commitment spoke strongly about their character.
Sorting began immediately, and despite the church’s brief notice of their arrival, they already knew where the supplies would be going.
Chris said that the people showed him pictures on their phones of the devastation. “Where their homes used to be, it’s just gone. I mean, not even rubble … just a mud pile. A warzone.” One man showed him a picture of what he said had been his community’s police station. “It looked as if you were about to start construction on a new site and get the bulldozers out and just level the land. Just gone.”
Chris highlighted the community effort and its importance, saying that it was really up to them to hold each other up. “I was talking with one lady about everything going on, and she was talking about the people that helped—the church groups, the volunteers—but who she didn’t mention was FEMA or the government.” He went on to say that many of the people in the area spoke to the slow-moving bureaucracy and the lack of real-time government response. “The people making the real difference were your volunteers and your church groups. Your next door neighbors were the ones up there doing more to make a difference than anyone else.”
Harold agreed, noting that while, in the long term, government support is helpful, getting the gears turning with an official response takes time. A grassroots effort among neighbors and people within the community is where one can expect to see immediate needs met.
After unloading and visiting with residents, the four headed out and got some much needed rest in a PA hotel at 11:30PM. They checked out at 10:00 AM on Monday and were back in Madisonville 19 hours later at 4:00 AM Tuesday morning. In total, they logged 1,937 all-purpose miles.
The men didn’t want recognition for the efforts or for the trip’s price tag, which totaled over $15,000 of Harold’s own money, but they were eventually persuaded to allow their names to be used. Harold also thanked Brad England and Jake Florida, both of Madisonville, for allowing the use of their trailers.
The trip may have a more lasting effect beyond the immediate assistance provided to the NJ community. During the return trip, Chris was inspired to create an organization he is calling The Revolution of One. He said that, once on its feet, this newly-formed nonprofit will embark on similar trips on a regular basis.
“We want people to commit to being a ‘Revolutionary’ by committing $1 a month. The whole concept is that God sent one man—his only son—to show us how to live on this earth, and what did he do? He carried and took care of others and everyone around him. The other significance of ‘one’ is that it reminds me of our first president … George Washington. He’s on the one dollar bill, and he was a general during the American Revolutionary War and is credited for, when the Americans were suffering a lot of losses, when they felt like they were about to lose hope, they laced up their boots and crossed the Delaware in the middle of the night and whipped the British’s butts and turned the war around … George Washington always said, ‘Deeds, not words.’ In our society, we talk too much … if more people would take that notion to do something good in their heart and just go do it, how much better would our world be?”
Chris’ goal is for a minimum of 90 cents of every contributed dollar to go directly to the cause. He said this is in contrast to many other charitable organizations that contribute as little as 10%, with most of the cash allocated to administrative costs. He compared it to tithing, saying, “If God can make it with 10%, then we should be able to also.”
“We will do it as efficiently as it can be done,” said Harold, who will serve as the organization’s Treasurer. “The bottom line is that hungry people will get fed temporarily. It’s not a long term fix. We know that. But a need will be met quickly. We don’t know how many lives will be touched, but we do know somebody’s going to be helped. That’s been assured to us by Pastor Bledsoe from [Calvary] Church.”
At its core, The Revolution of One is a ministry. The Toney’s believe that the example it will establish will go further than simply spreading the word of their faith. “When someone asks people, ‘Why are you a Christian? Why do you believe in God?’ they can say, ‘Because, at my darkest hour of need, God provided.’ That can only grow their faith and belief and help them to tell others about it.”
The Revolution of One plans on taking relief to wherever the need exists, blind to cultural, economic, or religious demographics.
He wants to build-up enough ‘Revolutionaries’ so that, at least at first, the group can make once-a-month trips to deliver relief to disaster areas or areas otherwise in need of supplies such as poverty-stricken communities. Long-term, he hopes that the movement can grow, sending out fleets of vehicles at a time.
Chris said, “One of the things I’ve always hated about charities is that they send you this junk in the mail … we’re not going to do that.” As a way to show members the fruits of their donations, he plans on producing video documentaries of the mission’s trips and making them available online. “You’ll be able to watch your donation in action and see the difference that you’re making.” The idea for this was spawned when Mike put together a video compilation of their trip to NJ, which can be viewed by clicking the link below.
Therevolutionofone.org website is expected to be completed sometime next week, accepting donations from charitable Revolutionaries one at a time.
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