Millions of New Jerseyans were affected by Hurricane Sandy, which hit the state just a little over two weeks ago. While most of the state has recovered from the storm, there is still a section that is reeling from the devastation.
The Township of Livingston and Livingston Public Schools are joining forces to “adopt” the towns of Ventnor and Atlantic City, N.J. As a way to contribute to those still feeling the effects of the storm, Livingston's successful Stuff the Bus will once again collect food for the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (C.H.O.W.), but this time it is also headed to the Jersey Shore.
"As life returns back to normal for many, some are just beginning to pick up the pieces in what will be a very long recovery after Hurricane Sandy," said local volunteer Stacey Rubinstein. "Residents in Ventnor and the Atlantic City area are slowly rebuilding and Livingston will be there to help."
Many shore towns were hit extremely hard during the hurricane and Atlantic City and Ventnor suffered extensive damage to their businesses, homes and beach. Both towns have diverse populations that live at the beach year round and many have economic situations that have intensified after the storm.
Healthy, unexpired, non-perishables, personal hygiene items and cleaning supplies will be collected through the end of the month and distributed in an effort to help a community in crisis.
For some residents, the path of destruction left by Sandy hits even more closer to home.
Chris Bickel, K-8 Social Studies Supervisor for Livingston, and a member of the town’s Food Day committee, grew up in Ventnor, where he enjoyed the beach community for many of the same things we all love about the Jersey Shore.
Bickel describes the area as "relaxed and fun," but he also enjoyed a strong sense of community. When his family fell on hard times, Chris saw the people of Ventnor lend a hand to help him and his 9 siblings with meals, clothing and shelter.
Now, more than 20 years later, Chris’ current community of Livingston will do the same thing for Ventnor and Atlantic City.
"Hurricane Sandy may have damaged our state, but not our hearts," said Bickel. "She has met her match in the generosity and support of this amazing community. Thanks in advance for your participation and generosity."
According to Rubinstein, the plan is for there to be a “linkage from student to student, Superintendent to Superintendent and Mayor to Mayor, making this a real connection between the respective districts.”
The bus, provided by Livingston Public Schools, will be picking up food on November 30 at stops all around Livingston. It will stop at all nine schools and then head to Aquinas Academy, Newark Academy and Kushner Hebrew Acade.
“The Shore communities were ravaged by Hurricane Sandy and so many schools and their families are struggling to rebuild," said Livingston Superintendent Brad Draeger. "There was no question that Livingston Public Schools would join in the relief efforts by providing support and resources. This initiative goes beyond donations – the schools are joining together to make this a meaningful teachable moment for our students, supporting our core values to provide community service opportunities and volunteer leadership.”
Local businesses, including Kings, Shoprite, Regal Bank, the West Essex Tribune, YMCA, Kids at Heart, The Westminster Hotel, Eastman Construction and Wiss & Company will also serve as collection points, as well as Livingston Public Library, Livingston Town Hall, The Learning Experience and the Senior Community Center. In addition, town wide organizations such as Healthy Community Healthy Youth and Kiwanis are throwing their full support and manpower behind this effort. The Chamber of Commerce will be involved as well.
On the following day, December 1, the bus will drive down to Ventnor to bring the much needed goods to those who need them. Township and school officials, as well as some residents and local media will accompany the bus.
In addition, food and supplies will also be sent to C.H.O.W. Housed at St. Philomena’s Catholic Church, C.H.O.W, spearheaded by Sister Barbara Howard and a project of the Livingston Clergy Association, is open for families to pick up much needed food and supplies on a drop-in basis.
After the big haul in October, the organizers of C.H.O.W. thought there was enough food for the month of November. However, due to the storm, the shelves were recently emptied.
For additional information on C.H.O.W, residents can contact Sister Barbara at (973) 992-1382. For additional information regarding this project, please email committee members Alan Karpas at firstname.lastname@example.org, Martha Ackermann at email@example.com or Chris Bickel at firstname.lastname@example.org.