Joel Fogel wanted to do something to help those who helped so many others after the Sandy storm.
Fogel, of WaterWatch International, organized a special dinner for all the first responders, volunteers and others who helped after the storm Wednesday at Angelo's Fairmount Tavern.
"We've been beaten but we're not down," the Somers Point resident said. "We want to recognize people who do the right thing. I wanted people to know we appreciate good behavior. We not only salute it. We hope others replicate it."
Fogel said he worked with many people who "got their feet wet" after the storm hit and over the next few weeks saw the toll everything was taking on them. He said he saw many people starting to feel depressed and tired.
They came out every day to help people in a dire situation," he said. "We felt bad. So many of them didn't have power at their own homes. After they helped everybody, they had to go back home into the cold. We had to do something for them."
Fogel also hosted a Thanksgiving dinner at the Somers Point Diner for about 60 people. On Wednesday people were invited to come and listen to music and enjoy a free pasta dinner. Participants also received a certificate of appreciation.
Fogel said the restaurant donated everything.
Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, was on hand to thank all the first responders.
The storm "brought out the best in our community," he said.
Debbie Van Sant, executive director of the Atlantic County Habitat for Humanity, said the organization helped collect food and toys, work with local disaster recovery centers and coordinated volunteers.
The group is currently finishing up their existing projects but after the new year will work to do repairs to homes for people who may not qualify for enough help from insurance or FEMA, she said.
Lt. Tim Showell, of the Atlantic County Sheriff's Office, said many of the officers worked up to 12 hour shifts after the storm and many had problems with their own homes.
But Showell said they worked together to help people out.
"Sometimes you hae to put your own problems aside for awhile," he said.
Egg Harbor Township resident Terry French, who won the Food Network's Extreme Chef show and runs the nonprofit organization Chefs for Life, said he tries to explain the extent of the damage to people from other parts of the country and they struggle to understand the magnitude of what happened. He said that immediately after the storm he and friends went out to help people and is working to get more people to understand the need for many local victims.
"I wake up motivated to make the world better every day," he said. "I just want to reach out to those who helped."
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