Christmas comes early for Ocean City school support staff

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 Members of the high school support staff who have been displaced by Hurricane Sandy receive checks from the NJEA to help them get back on their feet. Members of the high school support staff who have been displaced by Hurricane Sandy receive checks from the NJEA to help them get back on their feet.

OCEAN CITY — A serendipitous surprise brought tears to the eyes of several members of the Ocean City Educational Support Staff Association on Thursday, Dec. 20.

Kathy Sykes, president of the OCESSA, presented checks for $1,000 to 11 members of the association who have been displaced from their homes by Hurricane Sandy. The checks were courtesy of the New Jersey Education Association’s Hurricane Sandy Back to School Fund and Effort.

“It was really amazing,” said Irene Bell-Zebley, whose southend condominium may be uninhabitable for at least another six months, possibly a year. She and her husband are living in temporary housing, but will have to find another place to live by May. While the displaced receive some funding from insurance and FEMA, expenses are piling up, she said.

“We were all taken back, and then we were speechless,” she said. “We looked at the check and then each other and started crying.”

Bell-Zebley, who works as a secretary to the director of special education, said it was overwhelming, as though Santa Claus arrived early. 

“We were all so appreciative,” she said. “It came out of the blue. We were shocked and it couldn’t have come at a better time. We’ve all had so many unexpected expenses, and it’s far from over.”

Sykes said the money became available when the NJEA canceled its annual convention due to the arrival of the storm.

“Representatives from the NJEA called and wanted to know who needed help,” she said. “I gave them a list and someone from the NJEA drove the checks down to Ocean City this morning, so we could hand them out before Christmas break.

“That $1,000 is going to make such a difference,” she said. “All they want is to get back in their homes. They’re very anxious about their situations. It’s really neat and it was very generous of the NJEA to make that donation.

“It felt really good to do that, it was very touching,” she said. “With everything they’ve been through and everything many of them are still facing, the money will do a lot of good.”

Those receiving checks include: Kristy Allegretto, Janice Baldyga, James Davis, Karen Holder, Joanne Martin, Charlotte Williams, Irene Bell-Zebley, Cheryl Clearkin, John Fenton, Bernard LeVasseur and Ruby Moses.

 Ocean City school support staff members Irene Bell-Zebley, Charlotte Williams and Joanne Martin shed tears upon receiving the checks from the NJEA. Ocean City school support staff members Irene Bell-Zebley, Charlotte Williams and Joanne Martin shed tears upon receiving the checks from the NJEA.

Kathy Sykes, at right, hands out checks from the NJEA to Ocean City school support staff members Kristy Allegretto, Cheryl Clearkin and JR Fenton. Kathy Sykes, at right, hands out checks from the NJEA to Ocean City school support staff members Kristy Allegretto, Cheryl Clearkin and JR Fenton.

 Cheryl Clearkin and JR Fenton are very happy with the unexpected funding. Cheryl Clearkin and JR Fenton are very happy with the unexpected funding.


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