Energy was high inside the Beers Street School in Hazlet Sunday, with 200 volunteers busy putting sorting donations, putting hot meals together, and talking about their concern for the Bayshore victims of Hurricane Sandy.
The Hazlet-based Raine Foundation, at the invitation of Hazlet Township Office of Emergency Management, is endeavoring to meet the urgent needs of people in Keyport, Keansburg, and Union Beach as the temperature dips and a nor'easter looms for mid-week.
Raine Foundation co-founder Patti Dickens said the group had prepared nearly 18,000 meals by lunchtime on Sunday.
Mike Fabozzi, Raine Foundation President, said, "People are running out of food that they have saved, and a lot of people are being told they have to leave their houses." Raine is receiving a flood of donated, perishable food through the school's rear door, as well as fielding calls for an increasing demand from Bayshore area shelters, senior citizen apartments. People were flagging down Raine delivery trucks in the streets of Union Beach.
Since they first set up a relief center at noon at the Cullen Center on Tuesday, a steady stream of volunteers have been showing up to help on gas stoves and an outdoor grill. By Friday, the operation moved to Beers Street School and worked by industrial generator. On Sunday, 200 volunteers were sorting canned food, assembling cold cut and peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, and making macaroni and cheese dishes in the cafeteria.
Cathy Bossert of Hazlet said she has been working every day since the beginning, open to close, making and packing food and loading trucks for delivery to shelters. "I could not imagine not helping, because of all the devastation," she said.
George Mills of West Keansburg, who finally got power on Saturday, said he was determined to come help Raine on Sunday because he wanted to give back.
"I'm devastated by the damage in the towns closest to me, and I just want to help others," he said. "I'm amazed by the show of love and support from my community."
In the art room, Gregory Walsh, 12, of Hazlet spent two hours sorting cans of beans, diapers and pasta brought in by donors who drove around the rear of the school. "I was hearing what's going on in Union Beach and in some senior citizen apartments," he said. "If there's no food, people could starve, and if you eat or drink spoiled things you could get sick," he said.
This story included reporting by Emma Moran.