A.C. Linen employees came to the Atlantic City location Tuesday afternoon not to work but to eat.
The company joined with the Community Food Bank and Jewish Family Services to give its employees food to refill pantries and refrigerators left bare by the storm.
“This is a blessing,” said employee Elijah Heyward, 46, who lives in downtown, Atlantic City, where he rode out the storm with his girlfriend.
“I lost food and pieces of my sanity holed up with my girl,” he joked as he and others waited to be led into the main area where volunteers — including Steel Pier workers led by the Catanoso brothers who own the Boardwalk attraction — filled bags with canned goods and other pantry items.
The goal was to fill at least 500 bags with the 15,000 pounds of food the company owners paid for and the food bank provided. That didn’t include perishable items, such as milk, vegetables and cheese — which usually aren’t included in such efforts.
All over, people are reaching out to help after the effects of Hurricane Sandy left many without homes or the furnishings inside them.
Shore Helpers — at www.shorehelpers.com — helps match those in need with those willing to help. The website allows people to volunteer certain services or ask for help.
Caesars Entertainment assisted about 300 of its employees Tuesday, and has also offered temporary housing to employees in immediate need who have no where to stay.
“We have an amazing community along the Jersey shoreline and, on behalf of Caesars Entertainment, I would like to humbly thank each and every person who helped us get Atlantic City back up and running,” Eastern Division President Don Marrandino said in a news release.
The Red Cross had several of its emergency response vehicles throughout the area Tuesday to offer help.
“Everybody needs it,” said Lesvia Albert an A.C. Linen employee. “Everybody lost something.”
Albert lost her home in Chelsea Heights, where floodwaters ruined most of her belongings. She, her husband and their two children waited out the storm with a friend in Egg Harbor Township, but now at least have a place to stay after their landlord gave them a second-floor room.
Eric Goldberg, one of A.C. Linen’s owners, said it was important to help the company’s 500 employees — many of whom were impacted by the storm. As soon as employees returned to work last week, the process began.
“They walked around and asked us if we lost anything,” said Sapphire Wiggins, 26, whose Brigantine home fared better than most.
But she still lost food and has a young son to feed.
“They have oatmeal,” she said as she saw a co-worker bring in a filled grocery bag. “My son loves that oatmeal.”
“We worked together with management to figure out the best way to help people who need it,” said Lynne Fox, of the Philadelphia Joint Board, Workers United.
“The needs are varying,” said Andrea Steinberg, executive director of Jewish Family Services based in Margate. “In some cases, they are very dramatic.”
As for how long the need will be there: “No one really knows when this need with end,” Steinberg said.
Toinette Solano’s older daughter had to celebrate her 11th birthday in a Galloway Township hotel room Thursday, after they evacuated their Chelsea Heights home. She’s now staying in Lower Chelsea until the home is deemed inhabitable. But Tuesday, she at least had some groceries to bring home to her family.
Workers say they need the help, especially with less hours due to less work for the A.C. Linen — which has locations in the city and Pleasantville, whose workers are also being helped.
“It’s just a disaster,” Solano said. “We lost everything.”
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