Tom Raper Inc., Richmond, Ind., which bills itself as the largest volume RV dealer in the U.S., has shipped two motorhomes and 20 fifth-wheel travel trailers filled with supplies to the Mississippi/Louisiana disaster area.
“Two motorhomes went to Baton Rouge on Thursday and we’re sending 20 fifth-wheel trailers to Baton Rouge today (Sept. 2), but they may be directed to Biloxi or to New Orleans,” said Tom Raper President Dave Bane. “This is all changing from minute to minute.”
Bane said Raper expects to begin shipping trailers over the weekend to be used by people in the disaster area who have lost their homes. “I don’t have a time frame or numbers of RVs, but we expect to be shipping units down there for the next two months at least,” he said.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials have told him that upwards of 20,000 RVs will be needed for temporary housing, Bane said. Unofficially, he added, he’s heard the number may top 40,000 units.
Bane said Raper has advertised on local TV for people to drop off relief supplies at its stores in Richmond and the Cincinnati suburb of Fairfield, Ohio.
“People have been dropping off water, food and other supplies,” Bane said. “As these units are moved into the disaster areas we are loading them up with whatever they can carry.”
Bane said the units shipped today and Thursday likely will be used by FEMA to accommodate employees and volunteers. “FEMA doesn’t have any place to put the people that they are dispatching down there,” Bane said.
Bane said the dealership also has begun what it calls a “disaster recovery” program that will allow people and government agencies to purchases coaches at a set percentage above cost.
“I don’t want to criticize dealers in the disaster area because they’ve got their own problems, but we had people in here yesterday who said that some dealers in the area were charging $9,000 to $10,000 over MSRP,” Bane said. “I don’t want to tell what we will be selling units for, but it’s way below MSRP because we want to get help to people.”
The first units sold under that program went to NASA on Thursday, Bane said.