Truck off to Sudan
He had $50,000 to spend. He found a five-ton beauty, price: $23,500.
He was sold.
The dealer had a different idea, though. How about I just give it to you for free, he said.
"I was blown away," Levi said.
Yesterday, that truck began its slow voyage from Pittsfield to the war-torn African nation of Sudan, where it will be used to help refugees find their way back to their homes.
Levi, a Cheshire resident and founder of Operation Nehemiah Missions International Inc., a nonprofit Christian relief organization serving the people of Sudan, undertook a quest recently to send a truck to help the refugees.
More than 4 million people have been displaced as a result of the 22-year-long Second Sudanese Civil War, with many finding refuge in Uganda. Levi said there's a lack of transportation to help the Sudanese get back to their homes.
'Statement of my faith'
So with a $50,000 grant awarded from the ProVision Foundation, a Christian mission group, Levi set out on the Internet, eventually finding a former U.S. Army vehicle for sale at a West Virginia truck parts store.
He spoke with the owner, Eric Clark, who asked Levi why he wanted the truck.
"I told him, and then he asked me to send him a statement of my faith," Levi said. "Two days later, he called me and told me he wanted to donate it to my organization."
Levi wasn't sure if it was a scam or not. He told Clark he would be in Washington, D.C., in the coming week, and Clark agreed to meet him. That's when Levi was really sold.
"This man is a Christian," Levi said. "He said he wanted to do something for the good of man. He said that, if one day, he gets to heaven, he wants to see Sudanese children living and prospering."
|» On the Web|
For more information about Operation Nehemiah Missions International Inc., a nonprofit Christian relief organization serving the people of Sudan, visit the organization's Web site at www.operationsnehemiah.org.
He never asked for a cent, even when Levi offered him money in March, when he traveled to West Virginia to pick up the truck with friend Raymond Hutchinson.
"It was a movement of faith," Levi said. "We've become brothers."
With the truck in Pittsfield, Levi began work to get the truck to Africa. He found a Canadian company that would ship the rig from Baltimore to Kenya for $11,000.
Levi needed a driver, though. One of his friends from a local bible group, Jeff Duclos, said his uncle, Michael Duclos, had a Class A license to drive trucks. He volunteered his services.
"I just know how well (Jeff) has done in this group, so if he's putting himself forward, then I think it's worth it," Michael Duclos said.
Now the only issue was a canopy. The truck was missing its roof, and with the Sudanese rain season running from April to September, Levi felt one was necessary.
Again, friends from his bible group, Dan Kelly, owner of Kelly's Diner, and Kevin Rousseau, facilities engineering manager at ECO Pittsfield, stepped forward. As did Freedman Steel, which donated materials.
Rousseau recruited two of his workers, Mark Rice and Chet Halek, and a friend, Sean Driscoll, from Crane and Co.
Monday night, after they all finished their day shifts, the five of them formed an assembly line and within four hours, fabricated and painted a steel canopy for the truck.
"I'm just happy to help," Rousseau said. "It's a blessing what William does. There's a real need in southern Sudan."
On the road
Yesterday shortly after 5 p.m., with the truck filled with goods donated from Hope Church in Lenox and Berkshire First Church of the Nazarene in Dalton, Levi, Michael Duclos and Jeff Duclos headed south for a shipyard in Baltimore.
With the leftover money from the grant, Levi said huts and a water filtration plant will be built in a Sudanese village.
From West Virginia to Pittsfield to the Sudan, the truck has taken a charitable and circuitous route. Levi feels blessed.
"And," he said, "just because these men love to help people."
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.