05/14/07 — Logistics chairman getting set for Relay for Life

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Logistics chairman getting set for Relay for Life

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on May 14, 2007 1:45 PM

While everyone else at the annual Relay for Life is eating, playing and visiting with friends, Jeff Whitener is busy making sure the weekend is going smoothly.

Whitener, 47, has done logistics for the Relay for seven years. It's a job he begins in August each year and ends when every last bit of trash is picked up after the event.

He starts by drawing out the entire event site on his computer and marking off campsites and other areas. Then there are Portajohns to order, shuttles and drivers to secure and security to arrange. Luminaria placement has to be decided. Space must be provided for the entertainment and Kidswalk areas.

Whitener must also make sure there are power sources for the teams and the entertainment area.

"I work hand in hand with Wayne Community College to make sure the property is taken care of and not misused," Whitener said. "That's my No. 1 concern.

"And I make sure everything is OK with the fire department. We follow their guidelines for safety."

Whitener said the planning was easier when the Relay was held at Eastern Wayne High School, but when the event outgrew the high school, it had to be moved to the college.

"We didn't have a track to walk on at the college," Whitener said. "So we had to determine where we would have a walking area and decided to use one of the parking lots."

The first year the Relay was held at the college, Whitener designed the area to be like a carnival midway with rows where everyone faces each other. "That's worked really well," he said.

Whitener doesn't work alone. He has a committee of anywhere from five to 10 people.

He puts in an average of 10 hours a month from August through December planning for the Relay. March through the beginning of May, that goes up to 30 hours or more a month.

The week of the event, Whitener makes last-minute phone calls Monday and Tuesday. Then, he takes Wednesday through Friday off from his job to concentrate only on the event.

"Then it's time to start setting up lights for security at the Relay," Whitener said. "And we go out to the college and mark off campsite areas the entire day Wednesday."

The morning of the Relay, Whitener is the first to arrive when the sun comes up.

The biggest task then is registering the teams before they set up their campsites. "We make sure they go to the right campsite because no one wants to set up all their equipment then find out they are in the wrong campsite spot and have to take it all down and set it up again," Whitener said. "That happens usually once or twice every year."

Whitener and his team are on hand throughout the day and into Saturday to take care of any logistics problems that might arise. "As the saying goes, we put out a whole lot of little fires as it goes along," he said.

"Some things you can prepare for, some things you can't. You just have to wait until they pop up and make the best sound judgment you can at the time."

While everyone else goes home shortly after the closing of the Relay Saturday at 10:30 a.m., Whitener and his team stay behind to clean up the area. "Some years it has taken us until 5 p.m. that night to clean up," he said.

Whitener's biggest fear?

"Letting everybody down," he said. "And that I won't do a good job.

"That worries me because the Relay means so much to so many people. They've put so much of their own hard time into it that I don't want to let them down. It does start to draw on my nerves a little bit."

Whitener got into the Relay when one of its co-chairman, Dr. Lee Adams, asked him to do logistics. He said he continues to do it because it's for a good cause. "And I've met so many wonderful people that I would have not otherwise met."

The Relay is a cause dear to his heart, too. Cancer claimed his mother, brother-in-law and aunt.

"It's a hard job," Whitener said.

But at the end of the Relay, he takes July off before beginning on the next year's event.