By Jay Cook |
RED BANK – Jersey Shore residents have been glued to TV screens over the past few days, painfully watching Hurricane Harvey’s impact on Houston, Texas, and its surrounding communities.
It’s a scene New Jerseyans have come to know all too well – from the historic rainfall and flooding, to the loss of homes and memories in the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy. And because of those unfortunate experiences, many locals haven’t thought twice about helping their fellow Americans.
Proactive residents across the Bayshore are coordinating in myriad ways to assist those affected by Harvey, from planning day-long drives to the greater Houston area, to organizing local drop-off sites for collected goods.
In Union Beach, which became the face of Sandy after the “half house” photograph made national rounds, a local restaurateur is in the midst of collecting gift cards for Harvey victims.
And along the Navesink in Red Bank, a Texas transplant now living locally is doing her part to help the Texans she grew up with.
Chemayne Myers spent years with her family in George West, Texas, a few hours west of Houston. Both her parents still live there. Now a member of Red Bank Elks Lodge #233 and a Red Bank resident, Myers hatched the idea to gather donated goods at the West Front Street lodge after seeing her family’s personal struggle.
“My sister lost her house, my brother lost his house, and three of my cousins lost their houses,” Myers said. “I wanted to find a way to help.”
On Tuesday evening, she watched in appreciation as numerous people pulled up in the pouring rain to donate cases of ramen noodles, diapers, and miscellaneous kitchen supplies for delivery to Houston.
Ellen Gillis, a Red Bank Catholic Class of ’77 graduate, stopped by the lodge at around 7:30 p.m. on Monday. She currently lives in Seabrook, Texas, located in southeast Houston on Galveston Bay, with her husband, Jeff, and daughter, Katie.
But Gillis has been in Middletown the past two weeks tending to her mother who suffered a fall. It’s unlikely she’ll be home before next week, she said.
Since Harvey hit, Gillis was scanning local Facebook pages, looking for donation drop sites for hurricane victims. She has been looking to coordinate donations from Rumson Country Day school to send about 200 desks and chairs to schools in the greater Houston area.
“I think people up here are amazingly sympathetic and very empathetic to what we’re going through,” Gillis said.
“This is unprecedented,” she continued. “The opportunity is there to see people reach out. That’s what we want the world to see.”
On Sept. 1, Elks from the Red Bank and Marlton lodges will pack an RV to the brim with any donated goods gathered during this week, and will trek down south to give the goods to Houstonians in need.
In Union Beach, Gigi Dorr, co-owner of JakeaBob’s Bay restaurant, has begun collecting prepaid debit and gift cards to send down to Houston.
Those cards are “easier to transport, and can get right into the hands of the people that need it,” Dorr said.
After Sandy hit, Dorr said Texas parishes drove to New Jersey and helped with the Sandy recovery efforts. Now, she’s coordinating with Southside Church of Christ, Fort Worth, to be their point of contact for the Harvey recovery.
“If you were in Sandy and directly affected by Sandy, and you got the help, it’s not even a question,” Dorr said, about paying it back. “You know who came and helped you. That’s just humanity. It has to be done.”
Plans are in place for Bob Parcells, a retired Union Beach code enforcer, to drive to Houston and hand the cards out to anyone in need.
When asked about any advice she would provide to someone in Houston, Dorr kept her answer simple.
“Pray,” she said.
Harvey’s pounding damage upon southeastern Texas has been unprecedented. According to the National Weather Service, the storm dumped a continental United States record amount of rainfall, totaling over 51 inches.
Accuweather, a commercial weather forecasting service, estimates Hurricane Harvey will cause more than $160 billion in damage. That figure is similar to the combined costs of both Hurricane Katrina and Sandy, Accuweather officials have said.
Other local organizations and charities are doing their part to gather goods for Harvey’s victims, with more school-community based efforts expected to start up when children return to classes. Here are a few local efforts:
IMA Urgent Care facilities in Shrewsbury, Middletown, and Hazlet are collecting personal hygiene items for Harvey victims. Everything collected by Sept. 4 will be shipped to Bay Area Church in League City, Texas. A post on the Shrewsbury location’s Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon said they already have over $5000 worth of donated goods.
All seven Windmill Hot Dogs locations have partnered with Convoy of Hope, a children’s feeding initiative; Deal Police Department; SeaCoast Chevrolet; and Taste The Cakes and Ice Cream ice cream shop to gather strictly new merchandise to send to Houston. That includes any clothing, dry food, cleaning supplies, and hygienic products. Windmill announced on Wednesday afternoon a tractor trailer of supplies will be packed within 10 days for delivery to Texas.
The boroughs of Sea Bright, Keansburg, and Union Beach, among others, have set up donation drops at their respective borough halls.
The American Red Cross has a crew of 19 New Jersey disaster workers in Houston currently helping with relief efforts. To donate, visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or text the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
This article was first published in the Aug. 31-Sept. 7, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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