For Bahamas, Christmas Comes in a Big Blue Box

Chantilly-Based Businesses Help an Eagle Scout Ship Food and Supplies as Part of Bahamian Relief Effort

Article by Melinda Gipson

Photography by Stephanie Zimmermann

Originally published in Leesburg Lifestyle

When Hurricane Dorian failed to hit Puerto Rico, Rafael Babilonia, CEO of nonprofit United-DMV (aka Unidos Por Puerto Rico-DMV)—which had already sent 72 shipments with more than a million pounds of food, medical and janitorial supplies to the island over the last two years—initially breathed a sigh of relief. Then, when the extent of the disaster in the Bahamas became clear, the organization pivoted its whole operation to help.

Aided by donated recycled plastic boxes from LEND a BOX in Chantilly and My Guys Moving in Sterling, a 13-year-old prospective Eagle Scout from Falls Church also pitched in to make a difference. Between Oct. 10 and 23, Talan Flynn of Troop 681 in Falls Church drove the collection of donations to Kenmore Middle School in Arlington. He created and distributed hundreds of flyers, asking for non-perishable food, first aid, pet supplies, baby products, household cleaning supplies, hygiene products, tools, hardware and shelter—things like generators, basic tools, nails screws, duct tape, caulking, shovels, extension cords, tents, tarps, batteries, can openers—all to replace what you might think of as everything in your garage that you'd need to survive with no power. 

Supplies find room in container ships on numbered pallets. Pallets must contain individually sorted and weighed supplies that are then wrapped with plastic. LEND a BOX's lightweight crates have already been reused several times in this process, helping to streamline the operation and organize supplies without adding materially to their weight. For those not familiar with the company's value proposition, it supplies plastic boxes and moving logistics to anyone undergoing a move in and around the DMV. Instead of having to buy the boxes, pack them, then throw them away, families or businesses just call to have recyclable plastic boxes delivered, fill them, then the company takes them to their final destination. In this case, that destination was a shipping port in Miami, with the intended destination of the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency.

"Stephanie Zimmermann [co-founder and owner of LEND a BOX] has helped me so much, and I could not be at this point in my project without the help she has provided,” Talan says. “The company provided 130 crates and 30 dollies to pack and move the supplies in. I'm also getting help from My Guys Moving. They are transporting the supplies from my school to United-DMV's sorting center." 

Unity-DMV shirts left over from the first relief effort credit a host of other local area businesses.

But for all concerned, Rafael is the acknowledged "heart" of the operation. With the help of a couple dozen volunteers, one full-container-sized truck was loaded Oct. 19 from United-DMV's donated warehouse space, with Sydney Collie, ambassador of the Bahamas, looking on. (He even autographed a pallet on its way to the island nation!) 

You can reach United-DMV through the group's Facebook page, Facebook.com/UnidosDMV.

Did You Know?

Clothes are NOT something relief agencies are seeking! There's a full list of requested items here: Bahamas.com/Relief

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