Operation Airdrop dispatches pilots to deliver donations to Florence victims

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Dozens of volunteers loaded boxes of donations into RDU International Airport’s general aviation wing for private pilots to take to areas affected by Florence.

The project, A Just Florence Recovery, has become part of Operation Airdrop, a Texas-based nonprofit created to help Texas residents in places hurt by Hurricane Harvey last year.

In and around North Carolina, more than 100 volunteers joined A Just Florence Recovery in less than 48 hours.

Using private pilots and planes allows the donations to get to those who need them quickly, bypassing FEMA regulations.

“You give me an air strip, we can get an airplane there,” said Ethan Garrity, who helped create Operation Airdrop’s operational structure in Texas. He was at RDU International Airport on Wednesday, helping unload and sort donations.

Donors brought food, diapers, water, cleaning supplies and generators.

After Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas, Garrity said, “We developed the model really out of pure necessity, is what it came down to.”

He said A Just Florence Recovery has grown organically. The project has gained traction on social media and through networking. Pilots in and around North Carolina are taking planes to hard-hit areas.

While Operation Airdrop has a database of 300 pilots, the organization hasn’t had to call on any of them. A Just Florence Recovery has been “pilots calling pilots, people calling people,” Garrity said.

Information about needed donations and volunteers are available on the organization’s Facebook page.