OCNJ CARE offering hot meals to storm survivors

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Karin Rossi Gleason, left, and Sarah Lee are the organizing forces behind a hurricane disaster relief program, OCNJCARE, which provides hot meals to storm survivors. Cindy Nevitt/ Karin Rossi Gleason, left, and Sarah Lee are the organizing forces behind a hurricane disaster relief program, OCNJCARE, which provides hot meals to storm survivors.

OCEAN CITY – It seems Hurricane Sandy took everything from some residents, but their appetites.

Weary homeowners, physically spent from the effort of hauling the contents of their flooded homes to the curb, said the hot meals they enjoyed this weekend at the Stainton Senior Center were the only highlight they’ve experienced since Sandy brought record-high tides to the barrier island on Monday.

“I really appreciate it after working all day,” said Joe McQuillen, a resident of the 1900 block of West Avenue who spent Sunday as part of a team of volunteers from Coastal Christian church helping to clean out the garages of five different families. “I needed something to eat. We didn’t even stop for a bottle of water, we just went from one garage to the next.”

On Monday, OCNJ CARE – a newly created hurricane disaster relief program that provides hot meals to storm survivors – began offering expanded services out of St. Peter’s United Methodist Church. Breakfast will be served 6-9 a.m., hospitality offered from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., and dinner from 3-7 p.m. Monday to Friday. The senior center at the Ocean City Community Center, site of the hot meal program from 1-7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, provides county-sponsored services during the week.

“Everyone uses their garage for storage when it should be just for their car,” said McQuillen, who lost pictures and “sentimental stuff” in his own garage to the storm.

“It’s very good,” said Frank Hoffman of Mount Laurel, as he and his wife, Gail, finished a late lunch Sunday that they declared much more satisfying than the fast-food meal they grabbed Saturday. “We really appreciate it.”

The Hoffmans, whose one-story, two-bedroom bungalow at 17th and Bay took on a foot of water in the storm, spent the weekend discarding destroyed carpeting, padding, mattresses and furniture.

“I never knew I had so many shoes,” Gail Hoffman said, adding Sandy’s intrusion into their home accelerated their plan to weed out possessions upon their retirement to the shore.

Frank Hoffman said the 40 inches of water Sandy poured into his garage exceeded the 33-inch benchmark set by the 1962 nor’easter, and made this the first time since his grandfather built the property in 1938 that water entered the home.

OCNJ CARE is spearheaded by Karin Rossi Gleason and Sarah Lee, Merion Park residents whose homes escaped the 4 to 24 inches of water that infiltrated the living space of many of the original homes in their single-family neighborhood. Gleason, a Bartram Lane resident, had four feet of water in her garage and lost a car, plus inventory at her kiosk at Stainton’s Gallery of Shops on Asbury Avenue. Lee, a Pembroke Lane resident, is the youth pastor at St. Peter’s.

Rossi Gleason, a mother of four, is at the center of the relief effort, thrust there by the humanitarian inclinations of her daughter Cat, an Ocean City High School sophomore.

“The day after the hurricane, all our neighbors were out, and they were cold and hungry,” Rossi Gleason said. “Cat said, ‘People need food,’ and she made pots and pots of soup and lots and lots of chocolate chip cookies.”

That led to a meeting with St. Peter’s leaders, which led to a meeting with city officials at the community center, which led to the formation of OCNJ CARE. The seed money for the hot meal program was provided by Cat, who is also known as Pie Girl for the pies she sells during the summer at the city’s Farmer’s Market. Sales of the pies primarily benefit God’s Kitchen at St. Peter’s, a monthly free lunch program for the hungry and homeless.

Heather and Kevin DeCosta helped to spread the word about the hot meal program, and the mother-and-daughter team from the restaurant Shore Thing pitched in to run the kitchen. Pappy’s in Marmora donated 10 trays of hot food; Acme, Superfresh and ShopRite donated bags of groceries, and members of the community contributed pasta casseroles, salad, fresh fruit, cases of bottled water and an assortment of desserts.

Those wishing to donate food or time to the relief effort can sign up on the Facebook page OCNJ CARE.

Claire Lowe/ Nancy Karsner, Mary Walsh, Rod Schumacher and Bill Bateson, all of Ocean City, volunteer at St. Peter’s United Methodist Church the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 6, preparing food for the OCNJ CARE effort. Claire Lowe/ Nancy Karsner, Mary Walsh, Rod Schumacher and Bill Bateson, all of Ocean City, volunteer at St. Peter’s United Methodist Church the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 6, preparing food for the OCNJ CARE effort.

Claire Lowe/ OCNJ CARE volunteers at St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Ocean City. Claire Lowe/ OCNJ CARE volunteers at St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Ocean City.

Claire Lowe/ OCNJ CARE volunteers at St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Ocean City. Claire Lowe/ OCNJ CARE volunteers at St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Ocean City.

Claire Lowe/ OCNJ CARE volunteers at St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Ocean City. Claire Lowe/ OCNJ CARE volunteers at St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Ocean City.

Claire Lowe/ OCNJ CARE volunteers at St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Ocean City. Claire Lowe/ OCNJ CARE volunteers at St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Ocean City.

Claire Lowe/ OCNJ CARE volunteers at St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Ocean City. Claire Lowe/ OCNJ CARE volunteers at St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Ocean City.

Claire Lowe/ OCNJ CARE volunteers at St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Ocean City. Claire Lowe/ OCNJ CARE volunteers at St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Ocean City.


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