Lazarus House sees increase in need and donations after Sandy

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WILDWOOD — There are more mouths to feed after Hurricane Sandy, but there has been a lot of generosity, too.
That’s according to Lazarus House coordinator Betty Corcoran, who said she sees about 50 to 60 people a day at the local food pantry on Glenwood Avenue.

“That is definitely a lot of people. A lot more than there used to be this early in the season,” she said.
Typically, Corcoran said, the number of people using the food pantry during the summer is low and she sees an increase after Labor Day once people are laid off. Typically the Lazarus House sees the highest amount of people in January, February and March.
This year, Hurricane Sandy forced a number of locals out of work and some out of their homes.
The storm has caused some of the highest numbers of people seeking help at the food pantry, she said.
Those who visit the food pantry range from seniors to parents with children. Many have jobs, but under-employed and don’t make enough money to make ends meet, she said.
Local residents of the Wildwoods can visit the food bank from 10 a.m. to noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays once a week and receive premade bags with groceries like soup, cereal, canned fruit, canned vegetables and bread. The pantry also stocks toiletries.
Corcoran noted that many of the people who arrived from the Seaside Heights and Toms River communities and are staying in FEMA approved hotels are mostly being taken care of by the Red Cross.
“We haven’t seen much of them,” she said. “It is mostly local people that were hit hard that we are seeing.”
While the amount of people who rely on the food pantry is increasing, Corcoran said she has faith that the local community will keep it stocked.
As soon as the food stacked on cabinets and shelves start to run low, another shipment of donations arrives, Corcoran said.
“People have been so generous. It is really unbelievable,” she said.  
This year for Thanksgiving, Corcoran said, they could give 150 bags with holiday groceries and 250 chickens.
Corcoran said donations range from food, gift cards to supermarkets and money.
Service groups like the Elks recently donated more than 50 baskets of food for Thanksgiving dinners and have joined with Tony’s Produce to provide fresh vegetables.
Corcoran said Lazarus House volunteers put the word out about what donations they need through various parish bulletins. They also receive monthly shipments from a food bank in Vineland.
The Lazarus House took the place as the island’s main food pantry in 2010 when the program stopped being run by the United Way at the Maple Avenue house.
It is an ecumenical initiative run by volunteers at Notre Dame De La Mer, the Wildwood First Baptist Church, the North Wildwood Methodist Church, the First United Methodist Church in Wildwood Crest, Saint Simeon's by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in North Wildwood and the First Presbyterian Church in Wildwood.
Five volunteers are needed each day the pantry is open, Corcoran said.
“There are always two people at the front desk checking someone in, a couple of people are bagging up groceries and there are people putting away donations that come in,” she said.
With plans for Thanksgiving completed, Corcoran said the food pantry volunteers are considering what they can do for Christmas. The need is greater, she said, especially with the people living in the motels.
“But it can be tricky,” she added. “A lot of motel rooms just have a combination microwave and fridge. It limits what you can give and what the people there really can use. They won’t be defrosting and cooking a turkey.”

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