Cookie Till is well known for helping people in need. Now she's the one getting some help.

Till, the chef/owner of Steve and Cookie's By the Bay in Margate, is working to get her restaurant back in business after it was flooded during Hurricane Sandy.

Till does so much for the community, through her own efforts and by hosting fund raisers for nonprofits, friends wanted to give back to her, said Valerie Grossman, of Linwood. When Grossman asked Till what she could do for her, the answer surprised her.

"Believe it or not, I need someone to cook for me," Till told her.

So the former caterer signed up to make lunch for Till and her work crew last Wednesday.

Grossman is one of about 40 people and businesses who are making daily lunches for Till's cleanup and rebuilding crew from Richmond Brothers Builders, of Linwood, and from her current and past restaurant staff.

"This is the best thing that ever happened," said Kevin Bradley, of Ventnor, as he approached the lunch table. He's a solar systems salesman for Richmond Brothers who was pitching in with carpentry. "Every day a restaurant (or friend) brings something in that's fantastic. Usually we have to pack our own water and lunch and be self sufficient."

"Is that pulled pork? It's one of my favorites," said Shane Smith, of Northfield. Smith is usually a host at the restaurant, but was doing manual labor Wednesday.

Most Atlantic City casinos have signed up to make the lunches, as have friends and customers like Jess and Bob Blumberg, of Margate; Pat Smith, of Linwood; Hank and Annie Rouvillard, of Margate; and Alan Hoffman, of Philadelphia.

Server Barb Farrell, of Linwood, has signed up, as has liquor supplier American BD and AtlantiCare Foundation Board President Dee Kasis. Till serves on that board, and the foundation itself is also providing a lunch, she said. Lisa Biondolillo, of Margate, is a Steve and Cookie's host and has bringing goodies like chocolate chip cookies and chili every few days, Till said.

Area restaurants supplying lunch including Margate's Bocca, Mays Landing's Sugar Hill Inn, Atlantic City's Wonder Bar amd Tony Baloney's, and Ventnor restaurants Hanna G's, Sacco Subs, and Sage, as well as Egg Harbor Township's Jah's Creation Organic Farm.

It's a fitting tribute to Till, who supports numerous nonprofit and community groups, said Grossman. In addition to the AtlantiCare Foundation Board, she is on the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey Board and runs her own nonprofit called A Work In Progress, to educate children about food choices and nutrition through gardening and cooking.

The workers have ripped out drywall and insulation and are beginning to reconstruct the restaurant, Till said, adding she has been at the Bay Avenue location for 16 years and never flooded before.

In addition to current workers and the contractor's staff, friends and former workers are helping.

"She's an awesome, great person," said former busboy Oscar Castro, 23, of Ventnor. He is now a bartender at Revel, but took the time to help Till for four days last week. "I'm doing construction - whatever she needs."

Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:

609-272-7219