If you read last week's post "Hurricane Sandy - Yes, It Was THAT Bad", then you know that I was already feeling compelled to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy just a day after it struck the Northeast. What I didn't realize at the time was that just a few days later, after dozens of my friends, neighbors and strangers came into my home, we would be dropping off 3 large vehicles filled to the top with donations and supplies to 2 separate locations: Hoboken, New Jersey & Sayreville, New Jersey.
When we lived in Weehawken, NJ (which sits on the Palisade overlooking Hoboken), I joined a Mom's group - NJMM - which introduced us to so many wonderful families, people I am still in contact with to this day. The ball started rolling when I told my Philly girlfriend, Maureen, on Facebook that several of those friends were without power and she asked if there was anything we could do to help. That was at 11am on Thursday.
I began emailing, texting and FB msg'ing many of the young families and the leaders of NJMM to see what we could do. I was told that Hoboken had suffered a lot of damage and flooding. The Hoboken High School was acting as a distribution center and were accepting all donations, in particular: water, food, blankets, coats, toiletries, batteries, flashlights and warm winter accessories.
I sent out an email to my local Manayunk moms group and let them know what we were thinking of doing, did anyone want to help out? The response was overwhelming!
Over the next 24 hours, I replied to over 150 emails, had approximately 50 people come through my front door, had our local Patch write a story about our efforts and quickly lost our large dining room to all the donations. I was so excited to bring everyone who stopped by into our home so they could see the incredible amount of donations we had already received, including donations from Target and Acme grocery store. I felt like I was having a mini-therapy session with everyone - the same story was discussed time and time again - we all want to help, we don't know where to start.
The plan, at first, was to fill our Avenger with the donations and to go to Hoboken on Saturday. I soon realized that that wasn't going to be enough space, so my husband rented a Nissan Quest (those cars are massive!). Then we realized that we'd have to make another trip to Hoboken on Sunday. Finally, we still had too much for us to manage on our own, so we got the help of our good friends' mom to bring her SUV and filled that to the top, too!
After dropping off our donations in Hoboken, an email thread started in my moms group that helped us understand just how devastated small communities have been. Sayreville NJ, a small town where our friend, Frank, grew up, was still without power and many homes had simply been washed away with the flood waters that reached 7 feet at the height of the storm. We decided to change our plan, realizing that Sayreville may not get the attention and help that the bigger cities are getting. I'm glad we went there.
When we had emptied the car, Elliott and I were waiting for Jon just outside the local church (Our Lady of Victories Parish) and a woman passed by in tears, saying how grateful she was to everyone for showing their support. A little boy, maybe 6 or 7 years old, was asked by a church volunteer if he had shoes - yes, he'd found a pair - did he have a warm coat - his mother answered that yes, he had also just found a warm coat inside the church. At that moment, and even now as I write this, I broke down in tears and held Elliott a little tighter. All of our efforts were an attempt to try to make a difference, if just for one person. And here I saw an example of the people we would be helping by coming together as a community. I am so proud of everyone who helped make this possible and even happier to see how inspired we all are to continue making a difference.
To all of Hurricane Sandy's victims, we are sorry for your loss.