In a school in Union Beach that only reopened June 3 after being destroyed by Superstorm Sandy last fall, the newly refurbished gym hummed with activity as parents and children sorted through displays of notebooks, pens, crayons, and other school supplies.
Hundreds of book bags filled the bleachers of the K-eighth-grade Memorial School, destined for children along the storm-battered Jersey shore and Staten Island.
A large delegation of moms and kids from the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ arrived with donated goods to assemble school supply packages, part of a growing relationship between the federation and the resilient town on Raritan Bay.
“I think it’s important for our children to see the value in helping others so that in future generations when there are people in need they too will perform the mitzva of helping others,” said Susan Abramson of Livingston, who came to volunteer Aug. 15 with her nine-year-old daughter, Alexis.
Volunteers from Greater MetroWest have been coming down since December, some of them on multiple occasions, to help repair homes and lives as a part of the Bonim B’Yachad: Building Together in Union Beach interfaith project. Its “partner on the ground” is the Gateway Church of Christ in Holmdel.
“They’ve cleaned up debris, they’ve painted houses, and so much more,” said Stacey Brown, the federation’s manager of community engagement. “We’ve had over 500 volunteers come down.”
For the school project, federation partnered with the Hazlet-based Raine Foundation, which helps children in crisis throughout New Jersey and its Drops of Raine school supply project. Brown described Gigi Liaguno-Dorr, owner of Jakeabob’s Bay restaurant, as the “linchpin” who brought everyone together for the school project. With her eatery in temporary rented quarters after being swallowed by Raritan Bay during the storm, Liaguno-Dorr organizes donations and distributes supplies to her hard-hit neighbors.
For some of the Greater MetroWest volunteers this was their fourth or fifth trip to Union Beach.
“I’m inspired by this school and this town’s ability to pull together to help itself and help other communities in need,” said Taryn Berelowitz of Livingston, who had come to lend a hand for the fourth time with her sons, Tyler and Jared. “I’m so happy to bring my kids so that they can see what we are doing as parents.”
Sam Goldstein, 10, of Roseland said while he is entering the fifth grade with all the school supplies he needs, he tried to imagine what it would be like to have almost nothing.
The Union Beach kids need school supplies, he said, “but they can’t get them. I feel like I tried to help so that they feel happy and want to be in Union Beach.”
Dara Seidman, a nine-year-old from Livingston, said as she sorted through a pile of pens and pencils, “I’m doing it because it’s a mitzva.”
For more information on how to get involved, contact Stacy Brown at 973-929-3027 or firstname.lastname@example.org.