Local Teamsters raise nearly $13k for Kentucky tornado relief

Wesley Hubschmitt smiles from the cabin of the truck that traveled to Bowling Green, Kentucky full of donations as part of a tornado relief effort by Teamsters of Local 817 and other film industry workers.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

Teamsters of Local 817 and other members of the New York film industry are banding together to help victims of the recent record-breaking tornado that devastated Kentucky on Dec. 10.

Zach Badalucco, a Brewster, New York native, started a GoFundMe in the days following the natural disaster, calling for both physical and monetary donations to “donate directly to Kentucky tornado victims.”

As of Friday, Badalucco’s efforts had raised nearly $13,000 and filled an 18-wheeler with a variety of supplies such as water, shoes and wheelchairs for those in need after their homes and workplaces were destroyed by the deadliest storm in Kentucky’s history.

“We have the resources with Teamsters,” he said from nearby the effort’s Greenpoint collection center on Diamond Street. “We’ve got set decorators, costume designers, and they always have a lot of stuff that they donate usually to different causes in the city when they’re done using them.”

Time is of the essence, he added. “Those in need, need help fast. This is a sprint, not a marathon.”

After getting the okay from Local 817’s President Tom O’Donnell, Badalucco, a 12-year union member, was able to research for mutual aid groups in Kentucky with the help of Julie Ivers, who works as a production assistant but is not a union member. That’s when volunteers were connected to Jarod Hines with the Rise and Shine Organization, Badalucco said.

“He’s connected with a mutual aid group that is good at finding people in need,” Ivers said. “A lot of people don’t know the resources available to them, or they’re too afraid to reach out.”

“Jarod enlisted to be our contact on the ground,” said Badalucco on the GoFundMe’s page, “and will make sure all the supplies get into the hand of those who need them most.”

“This way they get the stuff immediately,” he told Brooklyn Paper. “We’re not wasting any time.”

Wesley Hubschmitt, a Long Island native and Teamster for nine years, towed the first haul all 14-odd hours to Kentucky over the weekend.

Left to right: Julie Ivers, Zach Badalucco and Wesley Hubschmitt smile in front of donations that will travel to Bowling Green, Kentucky as part of a tornado relief effort by Teamsters of Local 817 and other film industry workers.Photo by Caroline Ourso

Hubschmitt is no stranger to long-distance driving for work, but this will be his first solo trip.

“It’ll all work out,” he said with a smile after happily announcing to Badalucco and Ivers he’d received the official go-head to leave Saturday morning.

Badalucco and Ivers plan to take the money raised via the GoFundMe and send another truck down at a later date.

“We’ll send them all brand new batteries, socks, other stuff that’s great to have,” said Badalucco. “We’ve done this before.”

Badalucco is indeed no stranger to fundraising during a crisis. During the spring of 2020, in response to the start of the global pandemic New York City is still grappling with, he started a different GoFundMe and raised nearly $30,000 to produce face shields for healthcare professionals and boost the local economy in partnership with Quantum Visual Imaging.

Their efforts produced over 11,500 face shields for local hospitals.

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