So many Brick residents needed – and continue to need – help after Superstorm Sandy rolled through that a relief effort started by a few township rsidents outgrew its initial home.
Over the weekend, however, volunteers with Brick Hurricane Relief found a new home in the Bay Harbor Plaza shopping center, located at 55 Brick Boulevard.
The shopping plaza, which also houses Stop 'N Shop and the Burlington Coat Factory, has now become a hub for the relief group, which got its start in the basement of Visitation Catholic Church the week Sandy struck.
"By offering their facilities to us, Visitation Church was instrumental in helping us assist those in our town who needed it most, and we thank them for their support to our cause," said Amy Font, one of the group's co-founders.
But recently, as the long-term needs of the community grew, the group needed a larger space of their own.
That's when Fidelty Land Development Group, owner of the shopping center, came to the rescue.
"Fidelity Management Group stepped up," said group coordinator Patricia McDonald. "They said, 'we have a bunch of empty stores, we'll give you one.'"
After some time getting ready and moving items, the group opened its doors there last weekend.
The interior of the Brick Boulevard store is now stacked with items ranging from cleaning supplies, to food and water, to pet food, to pillows and sheets. There are also new clothing items, including the basics such as socks.
The donations have come from various organizations, companies and individuals. The group is now acting as something of a clearing house for donations that come into town.
The mission of Brick Hurricane Relief, McDonald said, is simple: put needed items in the hands of local residents whose lives were turned upside down by the massive storm.
The group started as a call via Facebook from Font to her friends to help one displaced family, then grew. Eventually, township fire companies transferred donated items to the group to be distributed, and ever since, the donations have continued to pour in. McDonald said BHC has now secured official nonprofit status.
A Long-Term Mission
Though the neighborhoods worst affected by Sandy are beginning to look physically better as debris is hauled away and basic repairs are completed, families displaced from their homes are still in need, said McDonald.
Dozens of local residents came to the storefront its first weekend, said Lynn Wallace, a volunteer who was working Monday afternoon. There was also a rush Monday morning, with about another dozen people in need visiting the store.
"We'll be quiet for a while, then a dozen people will come in all at once," said Wallace.
In some cases, families are just moving into temporary homes now, and need essentials to get started, Wallace said.
Fidelity has committed to providing space for three months, said McDonald.
The group requires those seeking assistance to fill out a form stating their needs before items can be distributed.
"We take a quick application with their needs and go out and get it," said McDonald. "We are fortunate to know a lot of people, so everyone has been very helpful. In other words, we will try to help people with any immediate need they may have."
The next-door storefront, since Dec. 14, houses Operation Brick Food Relief, which is serving hot meals to those affected by the storm. The two groups are not affiliated, but each is working toward the same goal of helping storm victims, McDonald said.
BHC is always looking for new volunteers and those willing to donate new items, organizers said. Those interested can simply stop by the storefront.
The location is open from Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.; and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The storefront is not open Thursday or Sunday.
"There hasn't been one thing we've asked for that we haven't gotten," McDonald said. "We said, 'we'll keep it going for one more week,' then one more week, and it just kept going. And here we are."