PTA holiday shopping event more meaningful after Sandy, organizer says

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OCEAN CITY — Boasting more than two dozen crafters and the popular “cookie walk,” the Ocean City Parent Teacher Association’s annual Holiday Shopping Extravaganza on Thursday, Dec. 6 attracted a steady crowd.

Hosted at the Ocean City Intermediate School, it is one of the organization’s largest fundraising events, helping to fund field trips, assemblies, lectures and other events for local children throughout the year.

In post-Hurricane Sandy Ocean City, the event wasn’t the biggest ever, but according to PTA President Ceclia Gallelli-Keyes, it was among the most meaningful.

“It took us a while to get all of this together,” she said. “We lost about five or six vendors because of the storm. So we went to a couple of Christmas marts in the area and picked up 10 new vendors. We were concerned after the storm that we might not even be able to have it, and that would impact our fundraising, but everyone came through for us.

“Things have been difficult since the storm, so many people lost everything,” she said.

It was nice, she said, to see people out shopping and enjoying camaraderie with friends and neighbors.

By the end of the evening, the Cookie Walk, where visitors can create their own cookie collection from a wide assortment of homemade treats, was nearly sold out, a good sign, she said.

“We sell the cookies by the pound, and since the PTA moms bake the cookies and donate them, every dollar we raise goes right towards our fundraising,” she said. “Every dollar goes back to the community, for the kids. We had a lot of cakes, and we raffle them off. We had a lot of food at the concession stand, too. People really came out and supported us.”

Tracey Hennessey was manning a table for Heritage Surf Shop, where UGG boots attracted a steady stream of customers. Hennessey phoned the main shop at Seventh Street, which had been decimated by the storm, as customers placed orders. Runners arrived with boxes of boots throughout the evening.

“We had three feet of water in the store,” Hennessey said. “We lost all of our electronics and some of our merchandise.”

Hennessey said the shop would not miss the annual event.

“This is a good way to help the PTA,” she said. “With everything going on, with the storm, it’s more important this year than ever to support our community. We want to help the kids, help the community get back on its feet. No matter what, storm or no storm, the kids are still expecting to have Christmas.”

Laura Rogalsky, a 2012 Ocean City High School graduate and student at Atlantic Cape Community College, was on hand to volunteer, greeting visitors as they entered the school’s multi-purpose room.

“I wanted to help, to give back,” she said, adding that enjoys chatting with people as they come into the school. “It’s fun to be here, to see everyone.”

Nancy Hoffman, a family and consumer science teacher in Horsham, Pa., said she traveled from Pennsylvania for the day to help the PTA. She and her husband honeymooned in Ocean City 23 years ago and the seashore resort holds a special place in her heart.

“I love Ocean City,” she said.

She and her husband were selling specialized dog and cat collars, leashes and accessories. “I was going to come before the storm, and then after the storm I said, ‘I’m definitely coming.’ We did the block party, we love doing this. I’m in Ocean City more than I’m at home. I’m always happy to come here. We stay at the Tahiti; it’s our home away from home. This is a fun event, everyone is so friendly.”

Lora Newton, owner of Claudia’s Fashions in Margate, was selling a wide assortment of women’s clothing and accessories. Since the storm blew through, her shop has been closed, along with most businesses in Margate.

“My store was not affected, but no one was shopping. Ventnor Avenue is closed, it’s done for a while. Nobody’s shopping,” she said.

The ladies in attendance loved her colorful scarves and jewelry.

“I did well tonight; we had a nice pace of customers,” she said.

“This is easy for people, they can come here and in one room you have all these different things to choose from,” she said. “It’s one stop shopping for all ages and all items. We’re supporting the small stores to do this kind of thing. We need to help everyone get back on their feet.”

Gallelli-Keyes said other fundraising events include Dances with Dad, Muffins with Mom, craft nights, movie nights and Bounce Night.  

“This is a good step. It’s nice to see people out and about,” she said. “It’s important that we keep doing things, getting out, getting our community back. We need to get back to the ‘norm,’ we hope to do more events this year.”

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