JERSEY CITY - A group of neighbors formed to help others in the wake of Hurricane Sandy has grown to a fulltime operation, collecting and distributing huge quantities of food and supplies, helping hundreds of desperate families and clearing cluttered streets.
The group calling itself Jersey City Sandy Recovery is operating out of the Barrow Manson, 83 Wayne Street, collecting and sharing donations as well as marshaling dozens of volunteers through the neighborhoods hardest hit by the historic storm last week.
A full week after Sandy struck, the city still has widespread power outages leaving tens of thousands without food, heat and basic shelter and streets strewed with debris. With a population of more than 250,000, Jersey City is the second-largest largest city in the state.
“We were just a group of people who got hit by Sandy ourselves. We saw a need and we tried to help. Things just grew and grew from there,” said Candice Orborne, a local activist and one of the recovery efforts’ organizers.
The group was originally formed by three individuals determined to help their own neighbors. They were Tiby Kantrowitz , a digital strategist, freelance writer Dana Schilling and Osborne. They agreed to leverage their skills first to see what they could do for neighbors in the downtown area, and later for people needing help all over the city and in neighboring Hoboken - also hard hit by the storm.
Shilling posted simple signs inviting volunteers to gather on Friday, Nov. 2 and more than 80 showed up.
“We began on the City Hall steps, but we literally grew in the cloud,” Shilling said.
Volunteers and donations began to pour into the Mansion, a historic site whose operators offered to host the efforts. In addition to dozens of locals, those responding included a group of 40 would-be New York City Marathon runners from the Netherlands, a truckload of supplies and helpers from a church in southern New Jersey and two young women who drove in from Harrisburg, Pa.
“People are amazing,” commented one Facebook member after a post about the outpouring of help.
The growing army of volunteers helped take in and sort donations, while others canvassed neighbors all over the city seeking people in need of help. Helpers packed groceries and drivers were dispatched with deliveries all over town. On Sunday alone, the group delivered supplies to an estimated 300 families and seven shelters in the two cities.
Other volunteers helped clear the streets of debris, loading 15 dumpsters and three dump trucks.