Helping hands suit recovery to a T - pressofAtlanticCity.com: Atlantic County News

Helping hands suit recovery to a T - pressofAtlanticCity.com: Atlantic County News

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Helping hands suit recovery to a T

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Posted: Friday, November 2, 2012 6:37 pm | Updated: 11:28 pm, Fri Nov 2, 2012.

Charities, churches and private residents are doing what they can to help the region recover after its battering by Hurricane Sandy.

For Jeremy DeFilippis, it’s making T-shirts.

DeFilippis, 33, is a co-owner of Jetty Life, a 10-year-old surfing and skateboarding lifestyle company in Little Egg Harbor Township.

Company art director John Clifford designed a T-shirt, featuring an outline of New Jersey submerged in water up to about Asbury Park and a red hurricane hovering over Morris County. On the back it reads “Unite + Rebuild,” with profits dedicated to Hurricane Sandy recovery.

“It just went viral,” DeFilippis said of the design.

The company sold 3,000 $20 T-shirts in a day and a half. Its jettylife.com had more than 1.3 million page views Thursday, overwhelming the company’s Internet servers. He said the company would dedicate about $15 — three-quarters of the price of each shirt — to recovery.

So far, that’s about $45,000.

Decisions about how all the proceeds would be spent weren’t yet final. However, after checking with local shelters, he said the company spent $5,600 Friday at Costco buying toys, food, drinks and blankets for shelter residents.

“There are people jumping on board, and people just want to help,” DeFilippis said.

The storm has displaced both DeFilippis and his partner Cory Higgins, Long Beach Island residents, who are staying separately with friends in the Ocean Acres section of Stafford Township. “Despite that fact, all we could think to do was transform our company into something to help people,” DeFilippis said.

Others have sought to help, too.

In Pleasantville, Palma Matthews, 37, said the On A Mission thrift store she manages on Main Street has been giving away needed items, such as socks, toys and portable baby cribs, to residents in need.

A number of churches are getting involved, interacting with national and international relief agencies to speed recovery.

In Egg Harbor Township, the Shore Fellowship Church off Ocean Heights Avenue was caring for people who were displaced from the Atlantic City Rescue Mission by the hurricane.

Jeff Whitaker, the pastor of programming and media, said they housed about 300 people starting Sunday, in separate buildings for men and women. They planned to return them to Atlantic City Friday evening.

The church also became a clearinghouse, as others saw that it was taking donations to give away, Whitaker said. The response was overwhelming.

He and other staff named a dozen area restaurants and grocery stores that had provided food and beverages. “They really stepped up,” he said. Donations included ice — five pallets worth from a Genuardi’s supermarket and 100 pounds from a ShopRite food store.

“I just happened to pick up the phone and a man up in Maine said he wanted to donate some generators,” Whitaker said. The man from Maine found the church’s name on the Internet.

Other out-of-state help included children from Michigan and churches from the South, he said.

Similarly, the New Covenant Community Church in Somers Point set up a community response initiative, which seeks to organize help for Sandy’s victims.

Brendon Wilson, the church’s lead pastor, said he modeled it on efforts he had seen when he was involved with community restoration following Hurricane Katrina and devastating tornadoes in Arkansas.

Wilson, a native of South Africa, said he was inspired by floods there in 1999 that separated his family. He wanted to lessen the pain for others.

“Sharing the love of God in a really practical way is something we really believe in,” Wilson said.

In the immediate aftermath of Sandy, the American Red Cross set up 27 shelters across the state, spokeswoman Laura Steinmetz said, sheltering more than 3,100 people.

The charity has dispatched about 1,100 trained disaster workers and has served more than 18,000 meals and snacks, Steinmetz said.

She said the charity was moving some of its temporarily displaced residents to the Atlantic City Convention Center on Friday, where it planned to establish a place to feed them.

Now that the region is out of immediate danger, John Emge, the executive director for the Atlantic and Cape May branch of the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, said people who need help or are interested in helping should call the state’s 211 emergency response phone number.

That number is staffed around the clock by volunteers who can direct callers to relief agencies that can best suit their needs.

Similarly, people looking to donate can go to the local United Way’s website at unitedforimpact.org. Local food pantries also welcome donations, he said.

But, he warned, “It’s not like they need a six-pack of water. They need pallets of water and diapers right now.

“Money is also the universal aid,” he added.

Contact Derek Harper:

609-272-7046

DHarper@pressofac.com

Follow Derek Harper on Twitter @dnharper

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