BRIGANTINE — Lauren Turner admits she has a hard time cleaning out her room and throwing away things that have sentimental value.
On Tuesday she and a busload of classmates from Holy Spirit High School helped Brigantine residents clean out their damaged homes, disposing of a lifetime of mementos along with carpeting and furniture.
“One lady showed us a brick from her childhood home,” said Turner, 17 of Absecon. “This must be so hard.”
The students were part of a citywide relief effort to help local resident clean up their homes and yards. On Monday a group of students from St. Joseph High School in Hammonton had come into town and volunteers will also work on weekends, meeting at the Brigantine Community Center on 42nd St. at 9 a.m. to be dispatched to area homes.
Resident Mary O’Neil arranged for the group from Holy Spirit to help.
“I just got frustrated with all there was to do,” she said as she worked through the list of a dozen homes the students visited Tuesday until the rain got too strong. City churches, social service groups and the Police Department promoted the service, and residents can register for help with the Community Center.
The Rev. Al Mungujakisa from St. Thomas Church in Brigantine joined the group and said he is amazed at how people just got to work cleaning up, some insisting they didn’t need help.
“Americans always want to be independent,” said the Ugandan native. “You offer to help, and they say no, no, I can do it.”
“But this really has brought people together,” said resident Lou Borkowsi who supervised a crew of students.
For many residents, it was clear they could not do it all themselves. Some still can’t talk about losing their homes. Others are more pragmatic.
Sheila Daily, who comes from a long line of Holy Spirit graduates and coordinates religious education at St. Thomas, said she was grateful for the enthusiasm and warmth of the students.
“They made it very easy to dispose of 45 years of belongings,” she said. Her home, which had just been updated, will now be torn down.
“It was condemned,” she said. “But so were a lot of other people’s homes. I’m not whining. Everything can be replaced. It’s all just stuff. Just now, there will be less.”
Many students at Holy Spirit come from Brigantine.
“We all know someone who was affected,” said Haily Lavallee, 17, of Absecon. “You see things happen on TV, but this time it was us.”
Ryan Sullivan, 17, of Brigantine, said his home was not seriously damaged so when the school announced the cleanup effort he was happy to sign up to help.
Anthony Gitto, of Margate, said his home survived the storm and made him appreciate all he has, and how much others lost.
“You really don’t appreciate things until something like this happens,” he said.
Jim Tchir, of Brigantine, a State Police detective and a coordinator of the cleanup effort said volunteers can just come to the community center on Saturday or Sunday to help.
Police Lt. Tim Reed also encouraged local residents to go to www.nixle.com to sign up for text messages from the Police Department.
The Community Center is also accepting specific donations, including: face masks to protect from mold, bleach, dish detergent, shaving cream, laundry detergent, heavy-duty trash bags, paper napkins and paper plates.
Contact Diane D'Amico: