Students provide relief to Sandy victims

By Stephanie Araneo
More than a month after Hurricane Sandy left homes destroyed and families homeless on Oct. 29, the tri-state area continues toward reconstruction. While the nation is responding through telethons and commercial campaigns, students are lending a more direct hand to help neighbors in need.
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One aspect of the storm that affected almost every resident of Scotch Plains and Fanwood was the loss of power. As houses grew cold and cell phone batteries died, families realized that they were not properly prepared for a power outage with the potential to last up to two weeks.
After regaining power a week after the storm, senior Jessie Klein offered heat and lights to her friends and neighbors. “People came in shifts. My friends would come and stay for a while, and then my mom’s friends would show up. It would keep rotating,” said Klein.
Families like the Klein’s, who also offered their washer and dryer  to neighbors without power, attempted to help others return to their normal routines as much as possible.
Meanwhile, outside, downed trees were a constant reminder of the destruction. Senior Tom Zimmerman cut up and removed approximately 30 fallen trees to clear properties, and his neighbors continue to ask for help.
“I feel lucky that my house was fine, but some people were really affected by this hurricane. I want to help those who were not as fortunate as my family was,” said Zimmerman, who found the grateful smiles on people’s faces “empowering.”
Although most of Union County is almost fully recovered from Sandy, other parts of New Jersey are months away from returning to normal. Ocean County received a direct hit from the hurricane and subsequently, the most devastation. The loss of iconic landmarks, such as the roller coaster in Seaside, along with the changed configuration of dunes, inlets and beaches, could forever change the face of the Jersey shore.
The distance between counties did not stop students from reaching out to assist victims through the cleanup.
With the group Younglife, freshman Christina Peluso drove to Toms River to help families whose homes were flooded to cope with the dirtiest and most difficult clean-up tasks.
“With about 12 other people, I went into a crawlspace with three-foot ceilings and lugged out heavy, wet insulation. After two and a half hours, we filled close to 300 bags of garbage,” said Peluso.
Junior Isabella Krempa organized her own collection of supplies needed by storm victims. Krempa gave nearly three carloads full of necessities such as diapers, canned food and bottled water to The Church of Grace and Peace in Toms River.
“I created flyers and handed them out in my neighborhood. I also used social networking,” said Krempa, explaining how she solicited donations.
Student organizations are also offering opportunities to those who want to contribute further.
Students Concerned for the Needy collected blankets to donate to victims through Evangel Church on Terrill Road, and sent the proceeds from its canister drive to the Lavalette school district to replenish lost supplies. Salsa Club is currently collecting and donating non-perishable foods to families that live in El Centro, a homeless shelter for Latino families in Plainfield.