BRIGANTINE— After months of traveling by caravan from town to town following Hurricane Sandy, a group of volunteers is now setting up shop downtown.
Blankets for Brigantine and Beyond, with the help of several local Rotary Clubs, took in a shipment of comforters, blankets, hand tools, rakes, shovels, food and much more on Thursday morning. Those goods will be available to Sandy victims at a distribution site in the shopping center next to St. George's restaurant, off Harbor Beach Boulevard.
“It’s just people helping people, at the very basic level,” said Linda Nese, of Blackwood, Gloucester County, a former Brigantine resident who helped co-found the organization. “In the few days after the storm, we were talking to people asking, ‘What do you need?’ And they said 200 people were sleeping on 40 cots in the community center and needed blankets and pillows. That’s how it all evolved. My daughter Christine said, ‘Let’s do this.’”
The organization had been driving SUVs and a donated tractor-trailer to deliver its goods to Sandy victims around the region, but as volunteer Joanne Tiedeken said, “As the weeks go by, the needs change in the community. We realized at this point in recovery, people needed a place where they could come.”
So the group joined with the Rotary Clubs of South Jersey to secure donations that were received and stored through the Governor’s Office.
“We had heard about a warehouse Governor (Chris) Christie had,” said John Andrews, of Ocean City, the district governor for the Rotary Clubs of South Jersey. “We got a call from his office one day, they sent me a shopping list, we ordered whatever we needed — and here it is!”
The materials were off-loaded in front of a vacant storefront donated in part by Joe Musumeci. The storefront will be open every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for Sandy victims to come by. Nese and Tiedeken said that people can apply at the group’s Facebook page, facebook.com/BlanketsForBrigantineandBeyond, or email BrigantineHelp@gmail.com.
Any applicants must have identification and FEMA numbers, they said, after which they would get a callback and have a two-week window to pick up their items.
“We expect the inventory will change,” Nese said. “We’ll certainly be getting more donations and shipments.”
The distribution center will be staffed on Saturdays by volunteers working around their full-time jobs.
“That’s what Rotarians do,” said Joel Kopke, of Galloway Township, a member of the Atlantic City Rotary Club. “They volunteer. They help. Our motto, ‘Service Above Self,’ is not just a motto, we live by it. Now the need is here, and no matter what is happening in our lives, we will donate our energy, our time and our resources.”
For his part, Andrews knew the need for help would not go away any time soon.
“This is probably just the start,” Andrews said. “It’s going to take a long time to get all those people back into their homes.”
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