CHESTER - Hancock County Republican Patrick McGeehan chose not to dwell on an election loss last week. Instead he organized a weekend effort to drive food to New Jersey residents who were devastated by Hurricane Sandy and a subsequent winter storm.
McGeehan is a veteran of the Air Force and wars in the Middle East. Over Veterans Day weekend, he raised money, rented a truck, filled it with food and delivered it to the Point Pleasant relief center in Monmouth County, N.J.
He acknowledged the trip wasn't without its challenges.
HELPING OTHERS — Patrick McGeehan, center, and volunteer firefighter John Slowikowski of Weirton, far right, speak with residents of Monmouth County, N.J., who were affected by Hurricane Sandy and recent winter storms there.
"When we got there, we couldn't get ahold of the relief shelter because their phone lines were down," McGeehan said. "We called the Salvation Army, and they said call the Red Cross. The Red Cross then said call the Salvation Army. When we did get to the relief center, we found it was running on fumes and paper towels."
The property damage in the area was "unbelievable" and horrific, according to McGeehan.
"But fortunately the loss of life was minimal," he said. "The people there had plenty of notice to evacuate. FEMA was pulling in as we were leaving."
McGeehan's trip to New Jersey was just one event during a busy week for him. On Nov. 6, he had lost his bid for election in West Virginia's 1st Senate District to incumbent Sen. Jack Yost, D-Brooke.
Two days later - on Thursday - McGeehan said he received a call from a friend and fellow veteran, Stan Almasi, a member of the 171st Reserve Wing out of Pittsburgh. Almasi told him the reserve wing had planned to send a truck full of food to a New Jersey relief center where local residents had largely been without electricity and food for days following Hurricane Sandy the week before.
A winter storm had since struck the community.
Logistic problems were keeping the unit from obtaining food and supplies and taking them to New Jersey, Almasi told McGeehan. Almasi then asked McGeehan - a former West Virginia delegate - if he knew how to get local help to New Jersey.
"First I made some phone calls to verify the situation, then I made phone calls to get monetary and food donations," he said. "I came up with a good amount of money, purchased food at cost from a food distributor, and rented a truck to distribute it."
McGeehan said he was able to raise about $4,000 on Friday for the effort, and the food cost about $3,500. The cost for the truck was about $1,000, he noted, and he paid the remainder of the cost.
McGeehan and five volunteers left Saturday morning for New Jersey and arrived there in the evening. A volunteer at the Point Pleasant relief center allowed the group to stay overnight in her home.
They returned home late Sunday.