The Red Bank Regional community recently extended the Christmas spirit to more than 70 Union Beach families who had been displaced by superstorm Sandy.
Struggling familes enjoyed a holiday dinner and presents Dec. 21 at the Union Beach Fire House, where representatives of RBR handed out holiday donations culled from a recent benefit drive.
“This was wonderful, because I told my daughter that Christmas gifts were just not a priority this year," said Union Beach resident Jeanne Cavallo, who is temporarily living in an apartment while her family waits for electricity to be connected to the trailer they purchased after their home was damaged.
RBR sought to lessen the burden of those in their school district displaced by Sandy and established a hurricane relief committee to support the affected families. A computer link on the RBR website is constantly updated to match family needs with community donations. RBR students designed special T-shirts which were sold during lunch hours to help purchase gift cards. A community Giving Tree was established. Its special snowflake ornaments were handmade by RBR crafts students and identified specific gift requests for each family member.
The Education Foundation donated $10,000 toward the purchase of laptop computers to loan to students who lost theirs in the storm. Students, faculty and families raised in excess of $6,000 and added thousands more in gift cards and merchandise donated by the community.
“This outpouring of generosity and compassion truly exemplifies the spirit of love, hope and community which has come to represent the RBR way," Principal Risa Clay said.
While planning the party to distribute the thousands of dollars in gifts and gift cards donated by staff and RBR families, Clay was contacted by benefactors from two other states.
Maria Stroup, the Upper School Student Advocate from the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pa., found RBR through a connection with guidance counselor Anita Caamano. The Shipley School’s student leaders conducted a fund drive that raised more than $7,000 to provide a gift and $100 gift card for 30 RBR families as well as a catered dinner for the celebration.
“We wanted to understand the magnitude of what these families have experienced,” Stoup said.
Additionally, the Church World Service, based in New York City, asked Clay how they could partner with the project. The sponsors of the Crop Walk, whose Monmouth County event begins each year at RBR, the CWS was happy to find a way to aid the victims of New Jersey shore communities.
Church World Service Executive Director the Rev. John McCullough personally delivered box upon box of home repair items, including valuable tools, which lined one side of the firehouse party room.
The Martinis, whose son Patrick attends RBR and who lost their Bayview Avenue home, were happy to return to their hometown for this holiday celebration. They have rented a small apartment in Red Bank near RBR.
Marie Martini commented, “The people serving us tonight are just wonderful. I have never seen such love from friends and strangers.”