Ventnor residents come together in wake of Sandy

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Hannah Carr, 9, and her mother, Gabrielle Carr, are still smiling after five hours of volunteering Saturday, Nov. 3. Hannah Carr, 9, and her mother, Gabrielle Carr, are still smiling after five hours of volunteering Saturday, Nov. 3.

VENTNOR – Just as the sun was setting Saturday, a symbol of hope came from the west.

Six trucks of donations from offshore arrived at the Community Building Saturday, Nov. 3 to set up a hurricane relief center that would last through Wednesday.

“It was a caravan that just rolled into Downbeach. It was incredible,” Ventnor City Police Capt. Doug Biagi said just before 9 p.m. Saturday.

Biagi said the relief center was conceived during a conversation with assistant city solicitor Amy Weintrob. They asked themselves, “How could we better serve our community with the relief effort?”

The two Ventnor residents began reaching out to their contacts offshore to solicit donations. Among those who answered the call were the Cardiff Volunteer Fire Department, the Cardiff Volunteer Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary, Joe Canal’s liquor stores, and Egg Harbor Township Public Works.

Ventnor Police Officer Domenic Cappella, who is also the shop steward for Police Benevolent Association Local 97, Commissioner Frank Sarno, and local chiropractor Michael Welch were setting up the relief center late into the night.

“It was just a domino effect,” said Weintrob, noting that she reached out to many contacts on Facebook for help.

The amount of donations was just massive. Two days prior to Election Day, where people would be voting in the Community Building, the room was filled with bottled water, food and clothing. Cleaning supplies, pet food and diapers were also available. Another room was filled nearly to the ceiling with bags of clothes to be sorted.

Ventnor resident Gabrielle Carr and her daughter Hannah, 9, were two of the volunteers who answered the call to help.

“She came in with her mother before we were set up. I told them to come back in a couple of hours, and they actually did,” Biagi said.

“We went to City Hall to see what we could do to help out, and they told us to come here,” Hannah Carr said Saturday, nearly five hours after she began volunteering. “I just want to help. I like it, I like to do it. It makes me feel happy to help out with stuff.”

Her mother said she feels that if a person sees a need, they should fill a need.

“Just the fact that so many people need help,” Gabrielle Carr said. “My house wasn’t that bad – so let me go help and be of some use.”

The hurricane relief center remained open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. Biagi said more than 50 people had come to the center before 11 a.m. Sunday. On Monday, it was moved to the cafeteria of the Ventnor Educational Community Complex, which was the site of another distribution point and hot lunch to feed 800 people.

Interim School Superintendent Rob Baker joined schoolteachers, school board members and volunteers in the cafeteria Sunday.

He said board President Lisa Martinelli and Ventnor City Education Association President Mark Boothby wanted to find some way to help. Providing a hot meal, particularly meatball sandwiches and hot dogs, was the answer.

“People just want to help. It’s such a nice community,” said Baker.

Along with clothes, fruit, produce and nonperishable food items, bagged lunches were made for people to take home.

Theresa Cohen, the school food service director, said she was there Saturday night prepping and came back again at 6:30 a.m. Sunday to begin cooking.

She said when Baker called and asked if she could help, her only answer was yes.

“This is great. This is the good side of life here,” Cohen said as she scanned the busy cafeteria. Normally, it would be full of schoolchildren, but they had the week off for fall break.

“The Ventnor school family is a great family to belong to,” she said.

The hurricane relief center remained open noon-4 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. 

Thanks to the coordination of Rev. James Macabeo, pastor of Way of Life Assembly of God Church in Ventnor, 25,000 meals will be delivered to the Community Building at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 12.

Macabeo said the meals – ready-to-eat macaroni and cheese and rice and beans – are the result of cooperation between Calvary Assembly of God in Williamstown through Rev. Jamie Morgan, pastor, and Bob Bostic of Deliver the Difference in Florida.

He said Deliver the Difference is driving here from Florida and will also bring cleaning supplies, bottled water, diapers and other supplies.

“We are very excited,” Macabeo said Tuesday. “We don’t have much experience doing this. Deliver the Difference does have the experience, and they are coming in to help out.”

He said the church has been thinking of ways to get involved in the community and also wanted to help during the time of need.

“We have actually been praying as a church on how to reach out in the community to be more relevant,” Macabeo said. “This is very much God’s answer to our prayers.”


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