Thursday, December 13, 2012

Difficult to Leave

Yesterday morning we slept in and then showered for the first time in several days.  Such a luxury!  As I felt the warm water washing over me I thought of Cassandra, the Goddess of the North Ocean County Bucket Brigade.  She has been going non-stop since arriving back in Jersey 4 days after Storm Sandy hit, and in our humble opinion, deserved to share the limelight and the stage with the other heroes feted at the 121212 Concert last night!  Hot showers, a bed to lay her head and access to a washing machine to do laundry are luxuries she does not have at this time.  Nor do most residents in the affected areas.

Rebuilding the basic infrastructure is a slow process.  The debris has to be cleared from the streets before gas lines can be opened & tested.  Some areas are still without electricity and who knows when running water will be available!  Imagine trying to clean your home, once the trash is literally shoveled out, without running water?  Challenging and yet folks are doing just this with the help & support of volunteers like Cassandra and Scott and Joe and Billy and so many, many more.

After valiantly trying to deal with the cantankerous grill yesterday, we decided Cassandra needed a new one.  She will be out on the barrier islands for weeks, months to come, providing cleaning supplies, a hot meal and an ear to so many.  So, a stop at Home Depot to check out their stock of grills.

One of our new heroes is Gabe from Home Depot who hooked us up with a sweet 4 burner grill with an additional side burner perfect for a big pot of hot belly warming soup! A menu item we know many working hard in the cold, damp weather will appreciate. This time of year they typically do not have any one on hand to assemble grills but that did not deter Gabe! He shared our story with management and they had the grill assembled by a local rental shop at no charge!!  Cassandra picked up her new kitchen today and will be ready once the barrier islands open again, hopefully this weekend.
Gabe, Home Depot Heroe!

We returned to Rebuild Our Shore HQ to drop off a few more items, exchange contact info and say our farewells, for now.  We bequeathed the magnetic sign that had adorned 'Bertha' to them and Scott promised it would go on the grill, or at least our names would!

It is so difficult to leave now when there is still so much work to be done and so much help is needed.  We have found it very difficult to put in to words what we have seen.  Pictures give you an idea but seeing it first hand gives it a depth that is very hard to articulate. While we have never seen a war zone, that phrase comes closest.

Approaching Sea Bright
We left Toms River and headed north to spend time with our aunt and her hubby.  Along the way we stopped in Sea Bright, a small shore town Michael and I lived in for one off season.  The sea wall in Sea Bright has protected the town from serious damage by many a hurricane in the past but was no match for this perfect storm.
Beach Club nearly tipped into street

Empty lot where building once stood

Best stop for a quick bite to eat

Sea wall nearly punched out by Sandy

Not sure if lunch was still being served

One of too many homes, destroyed

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Eye Opening

We arrived at Rebuild Our Shore HQ this morning at 6:45, not necessarily bright eyed and bushy tailed, but ready to do what is needed/requested.  With sister in law Donna along for the day we headed to a local diner for a fortifying breakfast sangwitch: pork roll, egg & cheese on a roll.  Not foods we typically eat but when in Jersey..................thanks Scott for the treat!

We met up with Cassandra, head Goddess of the North Ocean County Bucket Brigade, and headed 'over the bridge' to the barrier islands.  After a short stop at the staging area and loading cleaning buckets into the van, we headed to Seaside Park to set up.  Another trip to Ortley Beach nearby for more supplies and the giant, cantankerous grill, we head back to Seaside Park.

Cleaning buckets and other supplies are stationed along the road. The grill eventually fires up and we serve hot dogs and burgers to folks working on reclaiming their homes.Donna's humour is contagious and before long everyone waiting patiently for hot dogs and burgers are laughing and joking with each other.  Listening to their stories and getting a small understanding of the  road that lies ahead of them is humbling.  We know our seemingly small efforts of the day are going along way, yet wish there was more we could do.

We passed by streets on Orltey Beach where the majority of homes are gone.  The piles of debris, two stories tall, had been removed yesterday in an effort to open and test gas lines later this week.  Six weeks later and the evidence of devastation is still evident.  Water lines on garage doors, appliances tossed like feathers, chairs, tables, cushions lined up along the curb, mail boxes uprooted and more.........................

A few pics here and more on our FaceBook page:

Street in Ortley
Cassandra's Storage

Water line at Cassandra's storage
Large FEMA trucks hauling deris away

Seaside Boardwalk

Jet Star in the ocean

Jet Star
Seaside Beach

Beach sand in the wrong place

Interior of boardwalk arcade
Boardwalk arcade interior


One of many debris piles
Our set up

Bucket Brigade
Donan at the grill!

Donna entertaining the folks!

2001 Memorial

We are continually amazed at the grassroots efforts underway to assist everyone and anyone as the process of rebuilding the Jersey Shore picks up speed!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pooped & Grateful!

We pulled the La Plata County Van Full of LUV into the parking lot where Rebuild the Jersey Shore,, have set up a distribution site in a vacant store front for sorting and distributing donated goods.They were waiting for us along with Mark Di Ionno, reporter from the Star Ledger newspaper and high school chum of Sandra.  A quick reunion and we unloaded all from the van with the exception of the pet supplies.  They were impressed with how organized all the rubbermaid tubs were and that we marked them!  Makes it so much easier for the volunteers to sort.

A couple of hours later we loaded all the pet supplies from their site into the van and delivered to Joan at S.A.V.E. in Toms River  They have been inundated with kitties displaced for many reasons including Storm Sandy and their need is tremendous!  Joan shared with us that she makes at least one trip 'across the bridge' to catch cats and get them cleaned up, checked out by a vet and hopefully reunited with their humans or placed into new forever homes.  Joan was a bit overwhelmed and so grateful for the delivery!

Pet Food!!!!!

Mary Jo, Joan & Sandra

Back to Rebuild the Jersey Shore HQ to confirm plans to meet Cassandra, chief of the North Ocean County Bucket Brigade program early in the morning to go to Seaside Park to help with a BBQ and distribute buckets filled with cleaning supplies.  We will caravan with her and others and be escorted into the area and we may help shuttle supplies from Seaside to Ortley Beach.  Ortley will be close for the most part for a few days while the gas lines are opened and tested.  A reminder that many communities are still without basic infrastructure that we often take for granted until they are gone!

Early night as we have to be at Rebuild the Jersey Shore by 6:45am for our assignment of the day!

Rain? Rain!

Rained pretty much all night, raining this morning and it is one of the last things they need here along the Jersey coast!

We are off to unload the van in Toms River with an organization called North Ocean County Bucket Brigade.  They are one of so many grassroots, community groups who have come together to organize and compile the needs of so many people, distribute supplies and deploy volunteers.  And then the pet supplies will go the the Monmouth County SPCA whose offices have been taken over by displaced pets.  They are bursting at the seams with cats and dogs and are in constant need of supplies.

The last leg of the road trip yesterday was punctuated with very heavy fog on the Pennsylvania Turnpike!  Not sure why they compare such fog to pea soup, it is not at all green, although very thick!

Chatting with Donna & Dave, in-laws and hosts for the next few days, last night it is apparent that so many communities are still closed off to the public and that residents are allowed in only by permit/proof of residency and for limited time.  Unsure just what we will be able to see but stay tuned.

A couple of pics from yesterday..................enjoy.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Final Push!

A grey morning with a 'soft' rain falling, perfect driving weather.  This is it, we will arrive in Point Pleasant, NJ later this afternoon and will be arranging to drop off the van contents sometime tomorrow. We will spend a couple of days volunteering where we are needed and if possible exploring some of the shore area for a first hand look at the devastation.

Apprehensive?  You bet!  Viewing photos on the internet is one thing, seeing it in person, a completely different perspective.

We are grateful for all the support our community has extended throughout this vision/mission we set out on.  There is never any shortage of deserving organizations/opportunities for charitable efforts and we thank you one and all!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Three States in One Day!

After sleeping in we had breakfast at our hotel, packed up 'Bertha', and hit the road once again.  We stopped at a Starbuck's for a chai latte and received a thumbs up from a passing motorist.  The magnetic sign is beginning to get more notice and in a stroke of genius, Sandra moved it from the side of the van to the back door.

Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia are now in the past and we are spending the night in Somerset, PA.

It is always challenging eating 'healthy' on a road trip and this trip has been no exception.The Front Desk clerk here at the Hampton Inn recommended the Pine Grill as the place 'locals' like to eat so off we went.  We both ordered burgers that were cooked to perfection and just what we needed!!  Complimentary cookies at the hotel topped off the meal and now it is pj time!

Spaced out taking a photo this morning so we will double up tomorrow!

Here is a great story out of the Jersey Shore area and more can be found on the Jersey Shore Hurricane News FaceBook page:

#njsandy Ohai Boo says: "I wanted to share this story, because it made me proud to work for this company. I work for Monmouth Building Center, a small home improvement/lumberyard type of business in Shrewsbury, NJ. 

The purchasing management department, led by Donna DiMarco, has been making phone calls, calling in favors, creating new favors, etc, to fill a boom truck with supplies (from sheetrock down to hand tools and everything in between). Today, they dropped it off in Union Beach, NJ, where devastation seems to have taken over the little town. 

They donated this entire truck to help better the town. This makes me cry tears of joy!!! I'm so proud to know and work with these people. :)"

Sleep well Colorado.......................

On the road again................or not

Need to make a correction: Colby, KS is the Oasis of the Plains not Prairie!  The photo below proves it!

Another 700 plus miles traveled today and now we are bedding down at the Hilton Garden Inn in Terre Haute, IN.  Far better accommodations then last night.  Arrived too late to get much more than chips & pretzels for dinner so we opted for a couple gin & tonics at the Copper Bar.  Josh provided very good pours, we think because we were so disappointed to just miss the kitchen and the chance for a real meal!

On our long travel thru Kansas, our trek was graced by an abundance of hawk sightings!Over the 300 plus miles between Colby and Topeka Kansas we spied approximately 60 hawks!  Yes, I said 60!  Brother Bob in Germany said he was going to load a pipe for us today and the hawk medicine was present & powerful!  Many thanks, Bro!

Slept in this morning and had a breakfast of real food, ahhh.  A grey, cloudy day makes driving easy.  See you tonight from Pennsylvania.