Jacque Smith, 11, of Port Republic, and her sister, JoAnna, 15, help serve Thanksgiving dinner at the Fairfield Inn in Absecon to Red Cross workers and people who were affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Press photo by Kristian Gonyea

Four weeks after Hurricane Sandy struck, the storm continues to play a role in many people’s lives, even on Thanksgiving.

Dozens of American Red Cross volunteers, who have come from across the country, remained at work on the holiday, providing disaster assistance, meals and other help to residents displaced by the storm. But many also took time out for Thanksgiving meals provided by various hotels in the area, including at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City and Fairfield Inn in Absecon.

Sheraton Hotel also provided special Thanksgiving meals to its employees and in some cases, their families. The storm had displaced many of the hotel employees, who were allowed to stay at the facility until repairs could be made to their homes, officials said.

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Paul Morales, 37, of Atlantic City, a member of the hotel’s housekeeping staff, said since the storm struck, his home had been without heat and hot water, and only recently had electricity restored.

“It’s not possible to live there,” he said.

So, Morales, his wife, mother and father were invited to stay at the Sheraton until repairs could be made.

“For me, the Sheraton is number one,” Morales said.

About 90 people displaced by the storm are staying at Sheraton, according to George Egan, a Red Cross volunteer who has been working with displaced residents, helping them fill out paperwork. Many of the lodging costs are covered by federal disaster relief funds.

Area hotels have been particularly generous to the relief effort, Egan said. For instance, Golden Nugget, is providing Red Cross volunteers free lodging and discounts on meals, he said.

Just in the Atlantic City area, there are about 70 to 80 volunteers working to help people sign up for disaster relief and dozens more providing meals and other assistance. Volunteers serve for a minimum of 14 days, and a few, including Egan, have been in the area since the storm struck.

In Absecon, staff at the Fairfield Inn treated displaced residents and relief workers to a Thanksgiving buffet dinner. The Phoenix Diner, Skelly’s Hi-Point Pub and Joe & John’s Pizza donated the food, while the inn’s staff and extended family worked as servers.

Sandy Morehouse, of Mariposa, Calif., spent the past three weeks helping Long Beach Island storm victims file disaster claims as a volunteer for the American Red Cross. Morehouse spoke to her extended family Thursday in California, where they were enjoying a big family dinner together.

“It brought tears to my eyes not being there, but they understand,” she said. “This dinner was a wonderful surprise.”

Morehouse visited Long Beach Island to see the damage herself.

“Until we saw it ourselves, we just didn’t know the impact. Then it was like, ‘Oh, my gosh — no wonder,’“ she said.

Displaced storm victims staying at the Fairfield Inn also enjoyed Thanksgiving there. Brigantine resident ClaraBelle Cooper said she thought her home had been spared when she returned after the evacuation.

“Then I opened the front door. It was a big mistake,” she said.

She plans to rent a condo while her home is gutted and renovated. The flood damage was hard to take in, she said.

She sat down to dinner with her daughter Marcee Cooper-Sibson, of Galloway Township, who helped her salvage what she could since the storm.

Cooper said the turkey compared favorably to the one she would have made under normal circumstances.

“It’s better because I didn’t have to make it,” she said.

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