In the landlocked state of South Dakota, hurricanes are nothing more than distant news. However, one Vermillion resident felt the impact from 2,500 miles away and, through a supply collection and community donations, hopes to respond with aid by the end of the year.
Vermillion resident Gregory Robinson partnered with Amish Soap Company and First Dakota National Bank to organize relief for the people of the Bahamas affected by Hurricane Dorian in September.
Robinson’s project began as a search for his missing aunt and uncle, who were unreachable after winds that reached 180 mph destroyed their home island’s phone systems. Once he learned of their rescue, he turned his efforts to helping others affected by the hurricane.
Robinson, a senior pastor at Apostolic Faith Church, started collecting supplies at his church to send to the Bahamas.
“We’re collecting bottled water, children’s clothes, adult clothes and shoes,” Robinson said.
Seeking help in organizing relief, Robinson approached Dexter Jorgensen, head of Amish Soap Company and founder of Soap For Souls — a charity that donates soap deemed unfit for sale by Amish Soap to those in need — due to Jorgensen’s experience shipping soap around the world.
“We have a pretty strong logistics company and we can get stuff moved for much cheaper than the average person can and we know exactly how to do it and where to go with it,” Jorgensen said.
Robinson said he plans to use Jorgensen’s resources to ship supplies from Vermillion to Miami, where part of Robinson’s family resides. From there, Robinson’s family will use their connections to piggyback supplies on boats traveling to the Bahamas, where local church authorities await to distribute the relief.
Robinson said he understands shipping aid to the Bahamas is a logistically challenging process.
“It’s hard to rebuild, I mean it’s not like driving across the highway to Texas or to Florida; you have to get a boat to ship supplies and that’s always a tough task,” Robinson said.
Along with physical supplies, Robinson created an account at the First Dakota National Bank open to monetary donations from the public.
Robinson hopes to raise around $20,000. He plans to donate half to the Salvation Army and give the other half directly to those affected by the hurricane, he said.
Robinson said he’s working to finish his efforts by the end of the year in order to provide those in need with a holiday gift.
“We’d like to be done by Christmas, so we can give a Christmas present from Vermillion to the Bahamas,” Robinson said.