By Lauren Wanko
Just after dawn this morning, the Gateway Church of Christ made a delivery to the Union Beach Borough Hall with a truckload of 80 new appliances including washers, dryers, stoves and refrigerators.
Carl Williamson, a church worker, said “In town, there are so many people who have lost all of those appliances that I wish I could bring in 8,000 of those cause really we need one for everybody who’s ion in town.”
Sandy ripped through this Monmouth County community. At the height of the storm, 90 percent of the town was underwater. Of the 2,500 homes, officials say at least 2,000 were damaged and 175 homes were completely washed away. Union Beach resident Deborah DiGiovanni is relieved to pick up a washer and dryer today. “If it wasn’t for the volunteers, we would have been nowhere, they brought us mattresses and couches and tore down our walls and everything,” she said tearfully.
This isn’t the Gateway Church of Christ’s first donation. So far, they’ve provided $180,000 worth of food and basic necessities in Union Beach, along with three truckloads of furniture and 110 sets of mattresses.
Lifelong Union Beach resident Michael Perez loaded the back of his truck with a new refrigerator. It’s something he desperately needs after flood waters ravaged his home. His old appliances now sit in piles in the backyard.
“I didn’t think people would do things like this to be honest with you and it’s definitely reinstated my faith in humanity seeing all this,” Perez said. “We all got humbled by this storm, severely humbled.”
This Union Beach Borough Hall has transformed into a disaster relief center. Volunteers like Ruth Sutter work nearly 12 hour days to distribute supplies. “I can’t explain it, I feel like I’ve been gifted,” said Sutter. “I’ve been very lucky, blessed, and I have to give back.”
Added Carl Williamson, “There’s a heart here that has grown from this devastation that we have to come together we have to rebuild.”
A few blocks away Michael Perez carries his refrigerator into his gutted home……it’s a moment he won’t take for granted….
For Michael Perez, Sandy provided perspective about the things we take for granted. “Everything from Sandy was difficult — my first hot meal was a victory, my first full tank of gas waiting four hours in line … you appreciate all the little things,” he said.