HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — A steady stream of cars came through the line at Hamilton Mall for ice and water Tuesday as many Atlantic County residents continued to make do without electricity and, in some cases, drinking water.
Forklifts moved pallets laden with 8-pound bags of ice onto the parking lot of the mall. Workers then distributed a bag of ice and a case of water to each vehicle in the steadily moving line.
The ice — one full tractor trailer of it — was provided by the Wakefern Food Corp., the cooperative that supplies ShopRite supermarkets, said Vince Jones Atlantic County Emergency Management coordinator. The company delivered it at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday as part of an ongoing relief effort to help tens of thousands of residents without air conditioning.
Residents began lining up at the distribution center at about 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, 45 minutes before it officially opened, said Atlantic County Freeholder Frank Formica, who coordinated the delivery.
He credited his friend, state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, R-Monmouth, with putting him in touch with a Wakefern representative within an hour of speaking.
The company worked quickly to make the delivery, Formica said, an example of businesses and residents pulling together.
Jeff Young, a 51-year-old Hammonton resident and Atlantic County emergency management employee, was part of the relief effort Tuesday.
“It was mobbed this morning,” he said. “But everyone seems very appreciative.”
Employees from the Camden County Highway Department also joined in as part of an emergency partnership between the counties. Joe Romeo, 57, of Berlin, said they had been serving four cars at a time earlier in the day.
“I feel sorry for these people,” Romeo said. “To stand in line two hours for bottles of water and ice; you know they must need it.”
Ed Conover, deputy coordinator of the Atlantic County Office of Emergency Management, said the mall distribution will continue as long as supplies last. The county is also assessing the need for additional food centers and other services, he said.
“So far, people have been very patient, and we’re thankful for that,” he said.
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