In Ocean City, on an eight-mile-long Cape May County barrier island, about 4,000 individuals have volunteered to help flood victims clean up and rebuild their homes and businesses. Preliminary estimates indicate that the city suffered as much as $440 million in damage, Mayor Jay Gillian said Monday, and it could cost up to $31 million to restore the town's dunes and denuded beaches.
A constant stream of donations, including money, food and other supplies, has poured in, Gillian said at an afternoon news conference at which he announced creation of the nonprofit OCNJ CARE (Cleanup and Recovery Effort) Project.
Sea Isle City, Ocean City's neighbor to the south, is expected to announce a similar campaign Tuesday.
In Ocean County, home to two areas hit hardest by the storm - Long Beach Island and Seaside Heights - officials have urged volunteers and those who wish to donate to focus on the area's many volunteer fire companies, which may have lost equipment in the storm, and the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation, a nonprofit that has given more than $1 million to help needy children in Ocean County and North Carolina.
Funds raised by the Truex foundation will go to help flood victims. Donations can be made online at www.martintruexjrfoundation.org or by mail to 156 Cayuga Dr., Mooresville, N.C. 28117.
In Ocean City, the OCNJ CARE Project - which over the weekend served more than 2,000 free meals at a local community center - will function as an umbrella agency for municipal and civic groups and churches, and will work side by side with groups such as the American Red Cross and Salvation Army, Gillian said.
Over the weekend, the effort became a giant potluck, he said. Many vacation-home owners who came to town to check on their properties brought casseroles and containers of soups and cookies and cupcakes by the dozens to the Ocean City Community Center. The food was dished out to locals who had not had power at home for days and had no means to purchase a hot meal.
A group from one Pennsylvania suburb organized a lasagna-making effort so productive that it arrived at the center with 50 pans in time for Saturday night dinner.
OCNJ CARE will harness all this good will so funds are distributed properly and securely, and efforts aren't duplicated, Gillian said.
"Most important, we don't want to miss an opportunity to help," he said, noting that the effort has mushroomed through social media such as Facebook ( www.facebook.com/ocnjCARE) and Twitter.
Information about the project also may be obtained by calling 855-622-2730 or at www.ocnjCARE.com. The mailing address for donations is Box 807, Ocean City, N.J. 08226.
The need is enormous, even in small-town Ocean City, where about 11,000 people live year-around, officials said.
"We have a large retirement and senior citizen population. . . . We have people that haven't even left their homes since the storm. We need to get to them," said Drew Fasy, an OCNJ CARE volunteer organizer who was at Monday's news conference.
The largest project OCNJ CARE will tackle will be providing breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the foreseeable future at St. Peter's United Methodist Church at Eighth Street and Central Avenue, Fasy said.
Help has come from unexpected sources. A customized glass and giftware company in Collingswood, Red Dog Glass, is selling a $20 "Restore the Shore" T-shirt with all proceeds going to the Red Cross' flood victims' relief effort. And an apparel sales representative from Pittsburgh sent his Shore clients who lost their stores a truck stuffed with generators, water, and other items.
A wholesale manufacturer of floral designs in Joplin, Mo. - where 100 were killed and neighborhoods were flattened last year in the deadliest tornado in U.S. history - has directed employees to call every client in the New Jersey and New York area to ask how the company can assist them in rebuilding their businesses.
"No matter how much you might lose - your house, your belongings, whatever - if you are any kind of human being with a conscience, you forget your own troubles and you want to help others," said Susan Deaver, a resident of Ocean City's Gardens section who said her family home had been "totaled." Deaver had arrived at City Hall on Monday to look for a place to sign up to volunteer with the cleanup.
"It's a way to heal, so I'll do anything. Cook meals, find people a place to stay, help them clean up their houses," Deaver said. "I just want to help."
Contact Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-652-8382 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Jersey Shore blog "Downashore" at www.philly.com/downashore.