Volunteers from Tomoka Christian Church collected then transported two truckloads of donated hurricane-relief goods to New Jersey last weekend.
BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR
Five volunteers from Tomoka Christian Church, at 1151 W. Granada Blvd., set out for New Jersey last weekend, with two moving trucks stuffed to the ceiling with donated disaster-relief goods.
“We kind of collected in a hurry,” said Rob Gary, who initially proposed the idea to church administration. “Having lived in Florida, we knew the people were going to need this stuff right away.”
So after Hurricane Sandy hit the coast of New Jersey last week, an announcement was made that supplies would be collected. And then the message went viral online.
And that’s when it “blew up,” Gary said.
“We (filled) two trailer loads ... loaded, loaded, loaded with clothes, food ... pet food, paper products ... shovels ... really, anything you can imagine.”
And then he, along with his stepson, T.J. Buck, and other volunteers, Denise Nisbett and Ron and Marti Pawloski, started driving north, Saturday, Nov. 3.
“People just started showing up in droves,” Gary said, in a phone call Monday, while he squeezed his way into traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike, heading for home. The initial goal was just to fill one trailer, he added, but after people started showing up from outside of Ormond to give, they knew they’d need a second.
When the Tomoka team arrived at a Catholic church in Sea Bright, N.J., the destruction was worse than they expected.
“There’s nothing left,” Ron Pawloaski said. “Really, it’s decimated. And as we were leaving, they were already in the process of organizing (the supplies) for the people who needed them.”
In a city still evacuated, the Tomoka volunteers were allowed on the barrier island, which was hit hardest and is still currently closed off by the National Guard.
“There’s nowhere for people to live,” Pawloski said.
Initially, Gary's impulse to help New Jersey residents was because his wife is from there. But in a way, he realized, isn’t most of this city?
“So many people who live in Florida came from that area,” he said. “We really are a northern community that lives in the south ... and we believe that Jesus said to help your neighbors, you know? Love your neighbors.”
And they’re not done yet. Although no solid plans have been hashed out about what Tomoka’s next step will be to help, Gary says he’s looking into ways to lend a hand in reconstruction and long-term aid.
“We made a lot of contacts with a lot of people up there,” he said. “We just really wanted to help."
Monetary donations are still being collected at Tomoka. Call 316-1602.
United Methodist Committee on Relief, of First United Methodist Church, at 336 S. Halifax Drive, is also collecting funds to aid those impacted by the storm.
For more, call 677-3581. Immediate $10 donations can also be donated by texting the word “RESPONSE” to 80888.