Distribution in Ventnor shifts gears

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VENTNOR – More than a month after Hurricane Sandy devastated the Atlantic Coast residents of Downbeach communities are still seeking aid.

Shortly after the annual Ventnor Holiday Parade on Saturday more than 100 people visited the Hooked on Ventnor Volunteer Relief center at the community building in the Ventnor Library and Cultural Arts Center according to Mike Advena.

The relief center is now open 2-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 12-4 p.m. on weekends. “So many people don’t realize we’re here still,” Advena said.

Advena has been instrumental in coordinating the relief efforts since the days following the storm. He operates Newport Marine here and is on the city’s special events committee planning city events such as Hooked on Ventnor fishing and is also a former commissioner and member of the city’s planning and zoning boards.

“There’s still such a call. We have so many people coming in that either have never been in or it has been awhile since they’ve been in,” Advena said Monday, Dec. 10. “The big call now is for  clothing, jackets and cleaning supplies.”

Advena has been at the forefront of the volunteer efforts, in spite of suffering damage at his own business.

“I haven’t done anything over there. I will, the time will come,” Advena said about the cleanup at his marina.

Since the weekend following the storm the distribution center located at 6500 Atlantic Ave., has served thousands of residents from Ventnor, Margate and Longport in addition to servicing the Atlantic City population during the immediate response following the storm.

Advena estimated as many as 1,500 people came to the center daily shortly after the storm but said on average 400-600 people were seeking help until last week.

He said there is a large need for winter clothing and bedding.

“What’s happening now is people are leaving motels and hotels and getting placed in homes. Most homes are furnished but don’t have linens. Then they take linens and beddings when they go back home or get placed in a permanent location so nothing gets wasted,” Advena said.

He said the people who are requesting help now talk with volunteers who direct them to some of the agencies who are working with the group, some even have volunteers on site.

“We even have counselors that will come in or go to people’s houses,” Advena said.

There are more than a dozen organizations that are coordinating their services with Hooked on Ventnor Volunteer Relief and Advena said they meet nearly daily.

“We’re trying to network ourselves and we share resources,” Advena said. “The nicest part now with these programs is if you let them know you need assistance with anybody or anything they jump to it.”

For the past few weeks, the local group has been going door-to-door with bags of food or buckets containing cleaning supplies

“We’ve got a door-to-door program going. A neighbor will call or email me and say their neighbor won’t come in so I will grab like three pre-made food bags. I just leave it and go,” said Advena.

Also, Advena has been heading remediation crews, some with volunteers from around the country, that are helping residents with demolition work. He said since the week after the storm about 30 remediation projects have been completed.

“They come in and they’ll do all the remediation, tear out the kitchens, floors, walls and whatever is needed to get everything opened up for ventilation and some of them will treat the surfaces for mold,” Advena said. “The mold is four feet off the floor in the walls; it’s under the floors and in the joints.”

The center also has clean-up kits, typically buckets that are packaged by service organizations and include everything from gloves to trash bags and some have portable brooms.

“Everything you need to start to clean up,” Advena said.

Advena said many of the people he encounters are overwhelmed or left unsure of what to do when assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government agencies are not enough.

Meanwhile there are groups outside of the area that are offering their assistance to the city and truckloads of supplies have come in from across the country. Advena said 600 blankets were on a truck that delivered on Monday from Ohio in addition to winter coats and bedding.

“All this is being done through Facebook; everything is. They call me eventually and say they want to bring a truck up but most of it has been done through Facebook,” Advena said. “It never seems to end. As fast as it comes in, it goes out. The turn around on weekends is usually unbelievable. The stuff that came in today, most of those will probably be gone by Thursday.”

Nearly a constant hub of activity centered at the community building, Advena said it is made possible by a dozen or more volunteers working tirelessly to help their friends and neighbors.

“I have the most dedicated volunteers that I have ever seen, they’re relentless,” Advena said. “Most of my volunteers are storm victims coming in for supplies and they come back to help.”

Advena said those seeking assistance can contact him at (609) 839-6654. 

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