There's Still a Place to Warm Up and Get Fed in Oceanport
Oceanport volunteers have been providing food and shelter for those displaced by Sandy for over two weeks.
Just a day after Sandy blew through Oceanport and damaged 40 percent of the homes in town, a small group of volunteers mobilized to help.
Overseen by the borough's office of emergency management, the group quickly pulled in existing organizations in town — the PTO, teachers, food service — to set up a shelter at Maple Place School that became a partnership with the Red Cross as evacuees from other towns began to show up looking for help.
In a little over a week, the shelter served up approximately 10,000 meals and to date, about 350 residents have donated about 3,000 volunteer hours to help their neighbors, according to Oceanport Deputy OEM Coordinator Chris Baggot.
The shelter moved on Nov. 9 to the Port Au Peck Firehouse and, after finding housing for its final three evacuees this week, has now scaled back to a warming center open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily that also serves lunch.
Sign-in sheets at the front table indicate that those taking advantage of the center are local — Oceanport, Sea Bright and Monmouth Beach predominantly — and Baggot said at Thursday's council meeting that they're serving up about 50-60 lunches daily.
The firehouse operation is also a source for information — like how to apply for FEMA assistance — and has become the collection site for donations pouring in for displaced residents, like non-perishable food items, diapers and clothing.
Baggot said that only new and unused clothing is being accepted out of a concern for bed bugs and stressed that there is a "dire need" for cleaning supplies, including:
- trash bags
- paper towels
- face masks for cleaning
- mold and mildew spray
- empty spray bottles
- Scotch Brite pads
- scrub brushes
Jessica Herndon, who's part of a core group of volunteers running the warming center, sat manning the front table on Friday afternoon. She and her fellow volunteers spoke of the efforts of their neighbors following the devastating storm, even when their own homes have been deemed inhabitable.
Baggot and his wife Wendy have spent many hours organizing the borough's aid efforts although they've been uprooted by Sandy themselves and have been living at a hotel in Neptune.
"I'm never leaving Oceanport," Herndon said. "We have some community."