Deck the walls

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American Trucking Associations’ public relations campaign slogan, “Good Stuff – Trucks Bring It,” is intended to spread good tidings about the trucking industry. But for Don Hayden, president of family-owned M&M Cartage in Louisville, Ky., the message is a literal one. His trucks brought plenty of good stuff to one of the most devastated areas of New Orleans – and he footed the bill.

The story began with a transportation request from a faith-based group in the Louisville area. They were looking for help from trucking companies to donate trucks and labor to haul “walls” used to build new homes in areas of New Orleans destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Hayden said he’d commit to two of the 11 hauls needed to transport the volunteer-built, pre-constructed walls from Louisville to New Orleans – a 700-mile trip.

Hayden at first planned to ask other fleet owners to ante up for the remaining nine loads, but he didn’t count on the response he got from his own drivers. He asked for two volunteer drivers, and more than 25 guys stepped forward. “I was so touched by the response,” he said. “It makes sense, though. Truckers have big hearts.” Hayden provided the fuel, trucks and trailers, and paid the expenses of the drivers. He also got behind the wheel himself for one of the trips. “I don’t ever ask my drivers to do something I’m not willing to do myself. That includes driving the truck.”

The first two drivers, Sean Fears and Keith Evans, gave up two days of home time to complete the mission. After arriving and unloading, they went on a tour of the storm damage led by Craig Cuccia, executive director of Central City’s Cafe Reconcile, one of the organizations involved in building the homes. Hayden and the drivers were impressed with the hard work and community team building displayed by the volunteer efforts, and Hayden committed to hauling the remaining nine loads of walls.

The last of the loads will be delivered in mid-December, contributing to more than 32 newly constructed homes in the New Orleans area. Hayden says the experience has profoundly touched him and everyone involved in the project. “You lead by example. I’m just grateful I had the opportunity to make a difference.”

For more information on Café Reconcile’s rebuilding efforts in New Orleans, go to this site.