I am writing to share an important, but brief story of how people so quickly come together in time of crisis.
This past Saturday, my son and I spent six hours at The Bolger School in Keansburg, New Jersey, which was set-up as a make-shift emergency distribution center in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Keansburg is a working class shore town located on the Raritan Bay (southern part of New York Harbor), where many homes were severely damaged by flooding caused by the recent storm. Keansburg, along with its neighbors Union Beach and Keyport, and north Jersey towns like Little Ferry and Moonachie, is only one on a long list of New Jersey and New York area communities that took direct devastating hits. Unfortunately, these very needy communities are not receiving the same attention as better known areas like Atlantic City, Seaside Heights, and others.
A friend sent a Facebook message about the work being done at Keansburg’s Bolger School and asked for volunteers. Thanks to the good works of Big Joe Henry, a DJ at local radio station, NJ101.5, who made on-air requests for donations and assistance, and many other hard-working and dedicated individuals, hundreds of cars, trucks, and trailers from around the area arrived at the School in a steady stream, bringing prepared and canned food, water, blankets, clothes, soap and toiletries, diapers, etc., for Keansburg residents who lost their homes and belongings to the storm. This went on for days.
My son and I, alongside many others from various walks of life…male, female, young, senior citizens, poor, working class, wealthy, laborers, executives, educators, local residents, former residents who returned to help, and some from nearby communities…unloaded people’s cars and trucks that were filled with donations. Considering the volume of goods being delivered, we could not unload fast enough. Some cars returned again and again with donations. Many people asked what else they could bring the next day. A couple hundred people volunteered their time, helping to sort, unload, coordinate, and do whatever they could. Many of those helping experienced their own losses from the storm, but were working to help others, nonetheless. People were cooking food at the school, and trucks were shuttling hot meals, water, and clothes to shelters, senior citizen centers, and people in their homes, throughout the town.
Many residents, who didn’t have much to begin with, lost everything. A young husband and wife, and their two children, came to The Bolger School seeking food and clothes, saying that the storm destroyed their home and all they owned. After having a hot meal in a dry place and being invited to go to a shelter, the entire family returned to The Bolger School everyday (at last count…4 days straight), unloading donations from cars, sorting clothes, etc. The husband stated that he and his family would earn their meals. When volunteers realized that the husband, a large man, was wearing the same clothes he arrived in four days earlier, and gave him a few pairs of pants, shirts, and shoes, this good hearted gentle giant cried.
People from Keansburg and surrounding communities have been manning the emergency distribution center at The Bolger School since the day after the storm hit! Similar distribution centers have been set-up elsewhere to support other affected communities. The American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the National Guard, Food Banks, churches, service organizations, other groups, and throngs of individuals have been providing assistance and donating goods at many distribution centers.
Interestingly, in the case of the emergency distribution center set-up at The Bolger School in Keansburg, without knowing the true details, it appeared to me that the entire effort was begun and continued, not as a result of County, State, or Federal government procedures. This relief effort seemed to take shape as a result of hard-working local and regional townspeople, who realized that their neighbors needed help and chose to volunteer their time. The Keansburg Board of Education, Police, Volunteer Fire Department, First Aid Squads, and others, were actively involved in this large scale effort. They continue providing relief, recognizing that the storm expected this Wednesday could bring even further destruction and grief.
The willingness of so many people to help, give, donate, and express love for strangers was awe inspiring and brought me to tears more than once.
I send this to you, not in the hopes of receiving a response or compliments, because my son and I only played a very small role in a very large and important on-going effort put forth by many, many others. Rather, I am sending this message as a reminder that as things return to normal for some, a lot of people will struggle with the results of this storm for a very long time. Some may never recover.
Of equal and more timely importance, I am writing as a means of inspiring others to lend a hand to one or many, in any small or large way they can.
Wishing you well
Andrew Zezas, SIOR
CEO – Real Estate Strategies Corporation
Publisher & Host – CFO Studio
Host – General Counsel Studio