Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Down and Dirty in Ortley Beach, NJ

So, our trips to NY/NJ are getting a little easier to stomach. Definitely just as emotional as the first trip...but I don't get that sick feeling anymore.
I get the feeling that NJ/NY are serious. I get the feeling that NJ/NY are not messing around. I get the feeling that NJ/NY will be back and better than ever. I have yet to meet anyone that has said to me "I am giving up". I hear stories of hope reignited by simple acts of kindness from others.

 Along with my family, friends, coworkers and my best girl Sam Baldwin we have laughed, cried, trembled, hugged, shared, smiled and learned so much.  I have seen no turned into yes, frowns turned into smiles, tears turned into laughter, cold turned into warm, rubble turned into beauty and strangers turned into the best of friends. Once again......I am just a girl, who is so blessed and so lucky in this life that I wanted to pay it forward. Now I feel even more blessed and lucky that I was allowed to pay it forward. I want to thank NJ/NY for allowing us into your homes at such a vulnerable time. Thank you for sharing your tragedy, your stories, your souls, your homes and your lives. Thank you for allowing us to help, even though it seems so minute compared to the task at hand.  We are honored that you allow us to keep coming back......
and that, my new friends....we will.
We will never forget, we will always come back.

Down and Dirty in Ortley Beach NJ.....
Finally connecting with The Bucket Brigade
 and Christmas on the Island!
I will NEVER forget the post I put on Cassandra's Bucket Brigade wall...."hey I am coming to you next.... Jan 19th with a few friends to grill up some burgers and dogs and help out in any way we can". The post went VIRAL and within days we had 422 people coming to volunteer for the day. I couldn't believe my eyes! Courtney from Christmas on the Island said "let's do this", St. Pauls Chuch in Bayhead, NJ responded they were coming with volunteers and food! Friends and neighbors dropped off food and supplies. Rick Miller from The Back Page in Leola, PA gave good, hot food and tons of supplies! My MOM even decided to come along this time! Not only that, her boss at Tavo Packaging in Fairless Hills, PA donated an incredibly large amount of money so we could buy food and supplies for the day. Memorial Hospital and staff donated lots of good food and supplies. In came Erin and Nick Shock....Nick came forth with a HUGE pick-up truck and a 26 foot box trailer to pull all of our supplies, and some friends from Prestige Apparel too! Home owners and Business owners in need from Normandy Beach to South Seaside Park were signing up for help with projects by the dozens. Needless to say, my new friends Cassandra and Courtney had a lot of work to do to help me pull this off!

So we started collecting!

And Baking! For NJ with LOVE!

 Some amazing friends came over to help me organize....
Thank You Kristin, Kerri, Sally, Barb! I would have been a mess without you!

January 18th, it's like Christmas Eve all over again! Sam brings over car loads of supplies she collected and so does Laura. We were getting very excited now! Even our friends from Pittsburgh were coming with us and we were patiently awaiting their arrival!
Early to bed so we could get up at 5am!

January 19th Good Morning....Darkness?....5am

Nick arrived with a pick up bed full of fire equipment for Union Beach Fire Company from Tom Westenberger and the amazing first responders at Loganville Fire Company! Wait til they see this! The trailer was filled from top to bottom this time! Wait until Cassandra gets a look at Lancaster Sandy Savers!

And we're The Barrier Islands of Ortley, Mantaloking and Seaside.

(not my own photo but unsure who to give credit to)

Not quite sure what to expect, but hoping it looks a little better than it did a month ago. It has to, right?

We arrived in Ortley Beach, NJ and met up with The Bucket Brigade and AmeriCorps. The Plan: to break into groups and get to work. There was a lot to be done in a few daylight hours. Curfew is 4pm and there is no power.
Here is what we saw.

Again, as always I would like to make one thing clear....I did not take these photos to sightsee or gawk or to be disrespectful. I took them for those of you who couldn't go but gave so you could see how much your efforts were needed. The devastation is real and on every single corner, block and street. Remember when you are looking at these pictures, most of these are primary homes. Homes of families that have lived in this area for years and years. These homes are all unlivable at this time and the owners are now displaced in shelters, tents, hotels, rentals or with families. Where is the media you ask? Very Good Question. Get out the tissues.....

This is a bayside street.

 Part of the Midway Ride.
 Entire blocks of homes in sinkholes.
 Entire blocks of homes....gone.

(not my own photo but unsure who to give credit to)

(not my own photo but unsure who to give credit to)

(not my own photo but unsure who to give credit to)

Yes, it really is in the water. My heart goes out to these families, home owners and business owners. Will they ever be back? Will it ever be normal again?

In time.....

....time to get to work!
Wait...what? Who? From behind me I hear someone yell "cuffy"! It's my dear college friend Amy and her awesome friends from NJ coming out to help, AGAIN! up those grills! We've got some hungry volunteers to feed!

We had over 1000 hot dogs and hamburgers (and buns!)thanks to so many wonderful donations. We also had countless gallons of chili too!
Who's that on the grill?? My daughter, whaaaat? Avian, so proud of you girl! You served up those hot dogs like a champ!

 Thank you to the Island Beach Cafe in South Seaside Park for letting us use their parking area and picnic tables to feed the volunteers!
No power just charcoal and sternos. What a great day!
The call came in from Union Beach Fire Department.  The Lieutenant said he was 15 minutes away with a truckload of supplies coming to Ortley. What? They were supposed to be meeting us at the Ortley EMS to pick up the fire equipment for their devastated fire company. They didn't come empty handed! They brought The Bucket Brigade a truckload of supplies and toiletries they had an abundance of for the new supply distribution center being set up in Ortley. WOW! Here a town that lost so much still has so much to give. It was freezing out, but I was warm inside! The kindness and generosity are overwhelming in this state of devastation. I am so thankful that my children are able to witness such selfless acts of kindness and truly understand that helping eachother and sticking together in a time of need can make all the difference in the world.
The emotions shared between Union Beach Fire Dept and The Bucket Brigade were priceless. They were both overwhelmed by the generosity. I love it!

 I want to personally thank Krista Murray, Sam Baldwin and Tom Westenberger from the bottom of my heart for making this connection happen.

The empty union beach fire engine is now filled with tons of equipment donated by The Loganville Fire Company in York PA. Thank You!
On January 19th 2013, lives were changed. Homes were gutted. Towns were cleaned up. Lost treasures were found and made it back to their owners. Beaches were rebuilt and dunes protected. Bellies were full. Hearts were warm. Tears were wiped. Smiles replaced frowns. Laughter replaced silence. Hope was created. To all of you who helped us get is only because of you. Thank You.
Forever friendships were created!
Thank you Cassandra and Courtney for making this happen with me! 

Thank you to my amazing friends and family that continue to support me in my Sandy Adventures. I love you all.


  1. This brought me to tears!! I'm so excited to be heading to NJ to help in April. What an amazing journey you have started for so many people!! You are an angel to those people.

    1. Thank You Lindsey...I couldn't do it alone!!! You will have a great day....

  2. On behalf of ORTLEY STRONG, we really appreciate all the volunteer's hard work and donations. We could not rebuild without everyone's help...Thank you so much! -Eileen Koehler

    Please "like us" on facebook:

    1.'s people like you that keep us coming back. I am truly amazed each and every time we go to NJ at the strength and the selflessnes I witness. You are all so amazing and I can't imagine not helping you. I have seen people who lost everything...HELPING OTHERS. Worrying about others before themselves. It is very inspiring. I want to live my life witnessing and carrying out more acts of kindness and caring. It is what America is all about, grassroots....the face of humanity in times like this leaves you smiling and warm. Keep your head up and stay strong, we are with you til the end!