VENTNOR — The crowd gathered outside the Ventnor Educational Complex let out a cheer when they saw the box truck, small bus and two yellow school buses pull in front of the school.
Relief supplies were here.
Area residents hard hit by Hurricane Sandy lined up at the school for canned food, baby supplies and cleaning equipment, slightly more than a month after the storm came ashore. The storm flooded homes and ground-floor apartments, ruining many people’s food and clothing right before the slowest time of the year, and Saturday’s convoy was a welcome sight to many of them.
Adriana Trejo, 42, and her daughters Arianna, 9, and Daniella, 10, waited expectantly in the cafeteria amid about a hundred others.
Their Ventnor basement apartment on Sacramento Avenue flooded in the storm, Trejo said, holding her hand about mid-abdominal height. It destroyed everything. They had to temporarily move in with her brother-in-law in Lindenwold, Camden County, she said, but have since returned to uncertain circumstances.
“We lost everything because of the hurricane,” Trejo said. They hoped to receive cleaning supplies, tissues and food. “We lost everything,” she emphasized.
The donated supplies were from Livingston, Essex County, a 29,366-person suburban township about 10 miles west of Newark.
Nancy Dinar, one of the organizers, said people in the community wanted to help a town that had been hit by Sandy get back on its feet. They chose Ventnor, in part because Chris Bickel, a social studies teacher for the Livingston school district, grew up in town. The district’s website said that Bickel remembered city residents helping him and his nine siblings with food, clothing and shelter in difficult times. This was a chance to return the favor.
Also, Dinar, 65, said they sought out a town that seemed similar to Livingston. She said, “We didn’t want a place that was primarily vacation homes.”
The school district and a Livingston branch of the national charity Health Communities Healthy Youth encouraged township residents to “stuff the bus,” according to the school website.
Collections took place over two weeks, Dinar said, exceeding all expectations.
After the buses and truck pulled into the school parking lot shortly after 11:15 a.m., teams got to work. They formed a human chain to offload the supplies onto pallets that were carted to the school cafeteria.
“We just wanted to try and help out,” said Spencer Silverman, 18, as he passed supplies down the line.
Inside supplies were stacked on cafeteria tables. One table held a box of snack chips, macaroni-and-cheese packets, canned soup and adult diapers. Another, for families with young children, held infant- through toddler-sized diapers, baby food and unscented wipes.
The distribution went well, said Mark Boothby, a Ventnor teacher and one of the organizers. He said a few things left over were given to the local branch of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.
For local residents struggling since the hurricane, Livingston’s gift was a lifesaver.
Said Trejo, “I appreciate it so much.”
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