‘Tis the season: remembering those in need

Sandy has come and gone, having left in tatters an extraordinary number of homes and businesses, particularly along the Jersey Shore where many of us enjoy summer sun and sea.

Now those Shore folks are trying to pick themselves up and start over again and they need all the assistance they can get.

Everywhere, folks are responding – wherever the help is needed.

For example, The Star Ledger reported Sunday that a former Sayreville resident, Ed Kloskowski, is running the 200-plus-mile length of New Jersey as a way of raising funds for Sandy victims through Architecture for Humanity’s Restore the Shore program, Catholic Charities and the borough of Sayreville.

Elsewhere in the region, many communities are extending helping hands and Kearny is no exception.

Kearny Federal Savings Bank has undertaken a food drive at all of its 41 branches in New Jersey. The bank will donate its collections to the Community Food Bank in Hillside for distribution to Sandy victims.

In particular, there is a need for meals in a can, canned soup, shelf-stable milk, cereal, canned tuna, diapers, peanut butter, granola bars, canned fruit and canned vegetables and baby food (no glass jars, please.)

In this area, people can bring items to the bank’s branches in Kearny (614 Kearny Ave.); Harrison (534 Harrison Ave.); North Arlington (80 Ridge Road); Lyndhurst (307 Stuyvesant Ave.); or Rutherford (252 Park Ave.).

Over the past week, contributors brought in “a quarter of a truckload” of supplies, estimated Kearny Federal Vice President Georgiana McDonough. “Our first big amount came from a customer whose daughter was without power in Toms River,” McDonough recalled. “She brought in two dolly carts full of items.”

With the Thanksgiving holiday upcoming, the timing of the drive is especially poignant, McDonough said. “This year, there are going to be some people who are not going to gather around the Thanksgiving table because there’s no table to gather around. People have lost their homes,” she said.

At the Kearny branch of the Salvation Army on Beech St. much of the food pantry stock intended for the Thanksgiving needy ended up getting spread among local Sandy victims, explained Major Alberto Flores. “People were kind of desperate,” Flores said.“There was no power so food in the fridge was gone. We distributed food to about 60 people in need.”

There were also folks who brought in food and clothing for distressed residents of Monmouth and Ocean counties. One woman insisted on driving supplies to the shore areas herself, Flores said.

Now the nonprofit is gearing up to replenish its emergency pantry for the holiday and local schools are stepping up to fill the gap, Flores said. “Kearny High is coming Tuesday with its collections, Roosevelt School is in the process of collecting and also Franklin School will be participating,” he said.

“My wife (Brenda) and I are now in our fifth year in Kearny and we have a feeling of gratitude toward this very generous community,” Flores said.

Another local organization lending a hand is City of Hope International Church, which is associated with Kearny Christian Academy. “Two weeks ago, we opened our food pantry to help those in need, particularly people in Harrison who were hard hit, without power,” said church representative Marian Schreck. “We also gave them extra food, clothing and blankets.”

“We’re also continuing to meet individual needs as people let us know about them,” Schreck said. This week, for example, the church was preparing to give out more than 100 turkey meals to those in the community in need, she said. “And the need has grown over the course of the last two years.”

And, lest we forget, the Hudson County chapter of Habitat for Humanity, which is developing a residential project in Kearny, has also been a booster for Sandy victims.

Last Wednesday, the chapter sponsored a fundraiser for Jersey City Sandy Recovery and raised “just under $3,000,” according to chapter co-director Greg Strid. The money will go to help downtown Jersey City residents affected by the storm.

The chapter is also acting as a facilitator for folks looking to contribute to the Sandy recovery effort, Strid said. “We get calls from volunteers and we’ve been putting them in touch with various organizations and letting them know who to call, what to bring.”

Strid said the chapter is awaiting guidance from Habitat International on strategizing the organization’s participation in rebuilding efforts in central and south Jersey.

If you want to help with monetary contributions, contact the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, P.O. Box 95, Mendham, N.J. 07945-0095 or visit sandynjrelieffund.org.

– Ron Leir

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