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Ocean City launches organization to help residents with cleanup

Ocean City is working together with a new organization to help people with the storm cleanup.

OCNJ Cleanup and Recovery Effort is made up of city officials, businesses, organizations and residents combining their resources to assist residents. The organization, which launched this weekend, will provide information, food, lodging, transportation, cleaning supplies and other goods to residents dealing with the storm.

The city is projecting damages of $438 million, including $31 million in beach erosion, Mayor Jay Gillan said. About 1,000 tons of debris from damage throughout the city already has been removed, he said.

"What everyone is going through right now is unbelievable," Gillan said. "We're very lucky, but there are still a lot of people in Ocean City that need our help."

The organization started to form Friday as people asked what they could do, said city resident Karin Rossi-Gleason, who is coordinating the food program at St. Peter's United Methodist Church on Eighth Street. The program was operating at the city's Community Center this weekend but moved to the church Monday.

They served about 1,500 meals Saturday and Sunday, and hundreds of people have offered to help, Rossi-Gleason said.

The volunteers are working to provide anything residents need, including cameras and cell phones so people can document damage at their home and contact FEMA. There are no shelters available in the city, but Rossi-Gleason said they are helping to find residents a place to stay if necessary.

Meals are being provided to students at the local schools, which reopened Monday.

Gillan said the city works best if everyone is on the same page, as opposed to a lot of different groups working on their own.

"If everyone does their own thing, it can be counterproductive," he said.

Elizabeth Janus returned to her three-bedroom home Friday and discovered it was completely flooded and her belongings were damaged. She had been staying in her home until OCNJ CARE volunteers came by Sunday and told her of the services being offered.

"This is exactly what I needed," she said. "This place has been wonderful to me."

The retired registered nurse said she was initially too proud to ask for help and never thought she would find herself in this type of position.

"I worked hard all my life to buy a house at the shore, and I got it," she said. "Whoever thought I'd be homeless at 73 years old?"

Atlantic City resident Danny Williams was working to clean up the Flander's Hotel when he was told of the meal program and stopped in for lunch. He said he was touched that so many people would work to provide this for people.

"Sitting here this is really a blessing," he said. "I'm from an area where people are not too kind. It gives me hope to know there are people in this world that will give their heart to those in need."

People continue to come by and help any way they can.

City resident Angel Anes, owner of Cleaning Wizards, is offering her cleaning business for a few hours a day to people whose homes were badly damaged.

"The spirit of the people is incredible," she said. "They have too many volunteers (for some shifts). That's how much people want to help."

City resident Debbie McKenna volunteered at St. Peter's Monday and said she is not surprised to see everyone helping out.

"That's what Ocean City is," she said. "We're all about a community."

The church had hosted the Ocean City Ecumenical Food Cupboard but the area was flooded, so the organization moved to the Ocean City Sports and Civic Center on Sixth Street and the Boardwalk.

President Elaine Wilson said they are providing food, cleaning supplies and toiletries to residents. They served 85 people its first hour and a half it opened after the storm, she said.

City officials agreed cleanup will be a long-term effort.

Emergency Management Coordinator Frank Donato said the city hopes to repair as much of the dunes as possible by Wednesday morning to protect the city from another impending storm this week.

Gillan noted there was a lot of damage to the downtown business areas and hopes much of it can be repaired in time for the holiday season.

"I have no doubt Ocean City will be better than ever," he said.

Contact Joel Landau:

609-272-7215

JLandau@pressofac.com

Follow @landaupressofac on Twitter

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