Aided by the Army, volunteers have built an encampment of tents to serve food and provide other necessities to Sea Brighters when they’re allowed back into town. Restaurateur Chris Wood, below, unloads supplies. (Photos by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)
By WIL FULTON
Outside a mobile kitchen, a National Guardsman chows down a hot dog before helping young volunteers unload boxes of supplies from a tractor trailer in the heart of a newly erected tent city that’s taken shape in the heart of Sea Bright.
With regulation Army tents, Humvees, makeshift kitchens and grills, the parking lot next door to the borough firehouse is looking more like a refugee camp than the slice of summer heaven that draws thousands of visitors each summer.
But the camp has been built in anticipation of an influx not of tourists but of exiled Sea Brighters, who’ve been shut out of their town since leaving under a mandatory evacuation order in advance of Hurricane Sandy.
Chris Wood, owner of Woodys Ocean Grille, who has spearheaded an effort to feed first responders, relief workers and volunteers, plans to expand the effort exponentially when residents and contractors begin moving back to town, perhaps as early as Monday.
Were going to have it all,” Wood said Thursday, while unloading some boxes himself, “three hot meals a day to anyone who needs them, and a veritable Wal-Mart of supplies and clothing, available to anyone and everyone that needs them.
Beginning Friday, residents and business owners were to be allowed into the sequestered town on a day basis only, accompanied by contractors, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., said Mayor Dina Long. Also on Friday, Governor Chris Christie was expected to make an 11 a.m. stop in town “to thank the heroes on the ground,” she said.
For the past few days, the tents and trailers have been supporting over 200 people a day with food, warmth, and supplies. When residents and contractors begin moving back in, National Guard Sergeant Jerry Grant predicts that they will be prepared to serve over 800 people a day, at the very least.
Residents will be able to avail themselves of everything from hot meals to bottled water, blankets, underwear, socks and pet food, which will be stored in trailers that volunteers were still awaiting delivery of Friday morning.
“We’ve been overwhelmed with donations,” Long tells redbankgreen. “We’re bursting at the seams at borough hall, and we’ve started sending them on their way to Union Beach” and other places that were also hit hard by Hurricane Sandy on October 29, she said.
Chris Jacoubs, whose family owns and operates Harrys Lobster House, and Chris LoBiondo, whose family owns Surfrider beach club, have been volunteering and working the grill in order to help feed those on hand.
We really appreciate everyone out here working, trying to get everything back together, Jacoubs said. We just want to help out anyway we can, help to try get the energy and fire back into this town so we can start rebuilding and hopefully get everything back to what it was.
For those willing to help, Chris Wood tells redbankgreen a non-profit organization named Sea Bright Rising is being established to accept cash donations. We’ll post detailed info when it’s available.