Strathmere is the kind of small town where everyone knows everyone and neighbors are like family, said seasonal resident Elaine Holsomback, who owns a home on the ocean side of the one-and-a-half-mile-long and two-blocks-wide town.
When something bad happens to one of them, the others rally in their support, said Holsomback, who lives in the Palermo section of Upper Township when she's not in Strathmere.
"That's just the way Strathmere always has been," she said. "We help our own."
Following that model, the Strathmere United Relief Fund, or SURF, was formed to assist Strathmere's homeowners who were hit badly by Hurricane Sandy to recover and rebuild.
The Strathmere Volunteer Fire Company, the Strathmere's United Methodist Church and members of three community groups in Strathmere - The Citizens of Whale Beach and Strathmere, the Strathmere Fishing and Environmental Club and the Strathmere Improvement Association - created the fund. The donations collected will go directly to Strathmere's hurricane victims, said Holsomback, the vice president of the Strathmere Improvement Association.
"A few people lost everything," she said, adding that the bayside homes were hit hardest. "I was in one man's home just this past week, and the floorboards are buckling, the carpets had to be ripped out along with the drywall and insulation. Every piece of furniture on his first floor is gone."
Ed Tettermer, who like Holsomback owns a home on the ocean side of the island and did not experience property damage, said creating the fund was a natural action for Strathmere, which has always been known as a self-reliant and close-knit community.
"People have really been digging into their pockets to help," said Tettermer, who also owns a home in Philadelphia. "Whatever it takes, we will make it right."
The goal is to keep SURF going even after all of the town's storm victims have been helped and their homes have are restored, Holsomback said.
"So in the future, if Strathmere residents need help after a storm or a natural disaster, the money will be there for them," she said. "No one ever wants to think about a next time, but we have to."
Tettermer said the storm was a wake up call for Strathmere to be more prepared the next time.
"The one lesson we're learning is this is going to happen again," he said. "We need to be ready."
Contact Elisa Lala:
If you go
What: Citizens of Strathmere and Whale Beach will sponsor a town meeting with Mayor Richard Palombo focused on the impact of Hurricane Sandy and the future of the beach and bayfront management in Strathmere and Whale Beach.
When: 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8
Where: Strathmere Firehouse, 5 S. Commonwealth Ave.