LAKEWOOD RANCH — Finding a way to ship forty-three thousand pounds of clothing more than 9,200 miles away has Lakewood Ranch resident Fred Lopez busy.
After Typhoon Haiyan blasted through the Philippines Nov. 8, Lopez, a Philippines native, knew he needed to get involved.
Goodwill Manasota President Bob Rosinsky and other Goodwill employees are working with Lopez, a Goodwill ambassador, to help bring relief to families in the country.
Goodwill offered something that couldn’t be refused — barrels and barrels of clothing — 43, at an estimated 1,000 pounds apiece, to be exact.
Lopez, executive director of the ShelterBox Philippines affiliate and a member of the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch, will travel to the Philippines to ensure the items are distributed to those who need them most, with the help of ShelterBox Philippines members, he said.
Now, the retiree who spends his free time volunteering and giving back to his community in Manatee County and overseas, is in a unique position to help his homeland, as he utilizes his position with ShelterBox.
First, though, he needs to find a way to get the donations shipped and in the hands of the rightful recipients.
After speaking with local vendors, Lopez is finding the task easier said than done, because shipping scales are unkind to his wallet. He didn’t expect the expense of an estimated $10,000 to move the items out of the country and an additional $2,000 for the labor of picking up and transporting the donations.
With eight siblings living in the Philippines, all of whom are unharmed, this effort hits close to home for Lopez.
Money will be the last thing to get in his way, he said.
“I love helping and doing things like this,” Lopez said. “It’s the one thing I’m most passionate about, and I know I can make a difference here; I know I can do it.”
Born and raised in the Philippines, Lopez always had more of a pioneer’s spirit than his brothers and sisters, he said. He wanted to experience life in America. He wanted a new adventure.
He made the move 35 years ago to New York City, where he worked for the U.S. Department of the Treasury. It was near the end of his career with the government that he came face to face with what he would later make his full-time career — helping individuals who aren’t in a position to help themselves.
Sept. 11, 2001, changed the rest of his life, as it did for so many others.
After his lower-level office at the World Trade Center was transformed into a pile of rubble, he relocated to the Tampa Bay area, where he decided to live in Lakewood Ranch.
The global organization is centered on helping with the essentials — food, water and shelter. Currently, the group has tents set up that provide temporary shelter for victims who have lost their homes.
But, with more people than tents, the group needs help finding a place for everyone who needs one.
That’s where Lopez will also step in, helping find emergency homes for those in need.
But, for now, and until he is able to raise the funds for the clothing to be shipped, Lopez communicates as often as he can, using technology, such as FaceTime, to give the ShelterBox employees and victims in the Philippines the hope that he and the donations will be there soon.
Although food, shelter and clothing are among the highest needs in the Philippines, the most helpful donation right now is money toward getting donations shipped to the area.
For more information on how to make a donation, contact Fred Lopez at 350-6108.
Contact Amanda Sebastiano at [email protected].