Westfield Residents Come Together to Help Those Affected by Sandy
Sunday, December 9, 2012 • 7:08pm
WESTFIELD, NJ—In ways big and small, Westfield residents have opened their hearts and helped those devastated by Superstorm Sandy.
Some of the community’s efforts that The Alternative Press has learned about are described here, but the list is by no means exhaustive.
At the Nov. 27 Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Margaret Dolan reported all of the town’s schools and administration building are involved in relief efforts.
“While fundraising and organizing is still evolving, already some inroads have been made,” she said. “Many of our own staff have been displaced as a result of the storm, and we have, individually and as group, reached out a helping hand.”
Dolan said elementary schools have been fundraising for the Westfield United Fund’s Westfield Sandy Relief Fund. Several schools, including McKinley, Roosevelt, Edison and Westfield High School, have adopted schools in the shore area in need of supplies.
She also described the high school’s football game on Nov. 10 against Scotch Plains-Fanwood. Both teams supported the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief effort as members of the New Jersey Mid State 38 Football Conference.
That day, each player displayed a decal sticker on his helmet with the logo “Jersey Strong” to support the cause. At the entrance gate, fans donated money to support the effort and $484 was collected.
At Tamaques Elementary School, the Parent Teacher Organization has been working on several fronts, according to Co-President Cheryl Kelesoglu. The PTO holds Food Days fundraisers in which the parents sign up to give their children special lunches, such as pizza. Parents pay for the program on a half-year basis, so when the school missed several Food Days during Superstorm Sandy, PTO leaders realized they had extra funds that would not be used for the purchase of food.
The organization introduced a “Give Back” program in which families could agree to donate the extra funds to support communities affected by the hurricane.
“While this program was completely optional and a refund for the missed food days was offered, nearly 100 percent of a very generous Tamaques community participated,” Kelesoglu noted.
The school also has strong ties to the Westfield Armory through Danielle Bracco, a past PTO president and a current Family Readiness Group Leader of HHT 1-102nd Cavalry Squadron, Army National Guard based out of the Westfield Armory. Much of the focus has been on supporting the National Guard’s efforts in Union Beach, a community hard hit by the storm.
Bracco initiated a food and supplies drive at the suggestion of one of the National Guard soldiers. Volunteers were able to collect and send more than 300 bags of clothing, shoes and blankets and more than 200 boxes of toiletries, non-perishable food items, diapers and wipes, cleaning supplies and over-the-counter medications.
“It was amazing how the community came together,” Bracco said.
Tamaques parents donated approximately 150 protective suits and face masks for the emergency workers who continue to aid in the cleanup in Union Beach. In addition, the school has adopted Union Beach Memorial School to support the needs of a particularly hard hit eighth grade classroom, providing dry erase boards and markers as well as funds to replace math aids and basic school supplies they lost in the storm.
In another project, Tamaques students are making holiday cards and sending gift cards to students at another shore school, Highlands Elementary School.
Members of Temple Emanu-El of Westfield and families enrolled in the congregation’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) program joined forces to help those impacted by the storm. Two large-scale efforts were launched to address the needs of those in devastated areas, according to the temple’s executive director, Carolyn Shane.
On Nov. 17, the temple’s affiliate group for young families, LINKS, organized a program in which 200 temple members—adults and children—showed up to help pack lunches and organize donated items. About 1,000 bagged lunches were prepared and donated to a storm relief shelter in Union Beach and St. Joseph’s Shelter in Elizabeth.
Seven large bags of non-perishable kosher food was delivered to the Jewish Family Service Food Pantry. Other donated items—including cleaning supplies, toiletries, bedding and warm coats—were sent to shelters in Union Beach and Staten Island.
Temple members also assembled 150 “Shabbat bags” so families observing the Jewish Sabbath would have what they need even while in a shelter. The hand-decorated bags, part of a project of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, included candles, grape juice and challah.
Families in the ECE program also collected items for communities impacted by the storm. A delivery of new toys, sheets, pillows, blankets, toiletries, childrens’ books, diapers and cleaning supplies was made to the Thompson Park Operation of Emergency Management in Lincroft. A shipment of five large boxes of school supplies—including paper, notebooks, crayons and pencils—was sent to PS 228 in Coney Island, a K-8 school badly damaged in the storm.
Some Westfielders, including Chestnut Street resident Marc Herzog, chose to give direct service. As a result of the storm, his home lost power for six days. Once the power came back on and his life returned to normal, he organized a group of seven friends and went to the shore to help with the cleanup.
“I thought it was important to realize there were others whose lives were devastated,” Herzog said.
The group drove to Keansburg on a Sunday, where they assisted at four homes where people were piling ruined belongings at the curb. Herzog and his friends helped move couches, chests of clothes and toys destroyed by the ocean.
“It was something I don’t think I will ever forget,” he said.
At one home, when Herzog was done cleaning out, he gave a 5-year-old child a box of toys and a hug. The only words of comfort he could offer were, “I hope everything will be okay.”