News and Tribune

March 2012 tornado coverage

March 31, 2012

The friendly skies: Massachusetts pilot delivers supplies to tornado victims

SELLERSBURG — A passion for flight and desire will help bring more than $24,000 worth of clothes, gift cards and money to victims of the March 2 tornadoes.

The first plane-full of donations from Marion, Mass., landed at Clark Regional Airport on Friday and the six-passenger, single-engine plane was filled with new clothes and gift cards.

“I brought all brand new clothes [but] I couldn’t fit them all on the plane,” said pilot Jan Aarsheim. “It’s just one-fifth of what I have. I have so much more. I was hoping, when I started, I would get a planeload. I really need a tractor-trailer truck.”

Following the 4 1/2-hour flight, Aarsheim said there are more trips to make and she is still figuring out how the rest of the donations that have been collected will get to the area, but assured it will get to those who need it.

“Everybody that contributed said they wanted it to come here,” she said.

Along with new children’s clothing, Aarsheim and her co-pilot for the trip, Bill Friar, handed over $4,000 in gift certificates and multiple checks that were donated to the Red Cross. Aarsheim said she decided to organize a fundraising effort after watching the coverage of the devastation on TV.

“I was sitting in my cozy little living room and was thinking how fortunate I am, and I can’t imagine going through what these people were going through,” she said. “I wanted to do something. I can do more than write a check. I also thought of the people in the Midwest ... and I know if we had tornadoes come through and the devastation [they] experienced, I’m sure [they] would be there for us. I can’t think of better things to do with my fuel,” she added.

Shortly after the tornado struck, Aarsheim said she posted on Facebook that this is what she wanted to do and donations started pouring in.

“You see the generosity of one person trying to make a difference and then other people have just jumped on board,” said Michelle Dayvault, vice president of development and marketing for Goodwill of Southern Indiana, who was there to greet the pilots.

She added that the airport offered a discount on fuel to make her return trip to Massachusetts.

Dayvault said about a week after the tornado hit, she was contacted by Aarsheim asking how she could help. She said she passed along what was needed to Aarsheim and Goodwill helped organize the pickup for the items that were flown into Clark Regional Airport.

On Friday, Dayvault said they were acting as a clearing house. All of the donations collected were going to be taken to the Adventist Community Services tornado relief center off of Patrol Road in order to be distributed. She added that the gift cards and donations will be taken to the Clark County Chapter of the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army to be distributed.

In addition to the donations collected Friday, Dayvault said Goodwill’s voucher program had already distributed $26,000 worth of vouchers to those affected by the storms so they could get clothing from Goodwill stores.

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