By Jim Shilander
The images from Hurricane Sandy may have faded some from the public consciousness over the last month, especially with a major election, and then with the holidays beginning. But some in San Clemente, especially those with a personal connection the region, have stepped up to help the areas affected.
Jason Murray, a mainstay in the local surf community, grew up in Beach Haven, N.J., which is located on Long Beach Island, a barrier island off the New Jersey coast.
“It’s about 20 minutes north of Atlantic City,” Murray said. “It’s one of the many barrier islands that were pretty much wiped out by the tidal surge.” Murray said. “It’s among the hardest hit areas.” Many of the homes in the borough have been badly damaged, Murray said. His family’s welding supply business, which is located in Brooklyn, was also destroyed as a result of the storm surges in New York. The worst part of the storm, on a personal level, Murray said, was the feeling of not being able to help his family.
“I felt helpless not being able to help my mom or my sister. Everyone wanted to do something to help the community back there. That’s how this all came about.”
That feeling led Murray to seek help in the community he knows best in San Clemente, the surf community, as part of a relief effort called “Coast to Coast—Surfers for Supplies.” He’s partnered with Waves for Water, a charitable organization of surfers dedicated to providing clean water to regions around the world, including in disaster situations such as the tsunamis in Japan and Indonesia, and the earthquake in Haiti, in order to help run the effort. The organization has established its own distribution centers in order to provide relief through out the affected areas. That previous disaster experience, Murray said, made the organization invaluable in getting supplies where they needed to go.
“Although this is the first domestic relief effort W4W has supported, their experience in Japan, Haiti and Indonesia prepared them to be an effective responder to this natural disaster,” Murray said. “They are a small, but efficient mobile group that isn’t weighed down by bureaucracy and process. In working with them, I know every item we collect will get to someone in need. I also know 100 percent of every dollar raised goes to the cause and not to operating costs.”
Murray said that while Sandy may not have been as damaging, in terms io lives lost or monetarily, as Hurricane Katrina, since it struck a much more heavily populated area, it’s affected far more people than even Katrina did.
The relief effort has set up 22 collection points throughout Southern California and the Bay Area, including Catalyst in San Clemente and Killer Dana in Dana Point. San Clemente-based business Electric Visual has donated warehouse space to house the collected items before they’re shipped to the East Coast, and helped to coordinate the collection points. The first shipment of relief items arrived in New York Monday, carrying eight pallets of donated items, 102 boxes, and another delivery is planned for next week.
“In order for this drive to be effective, both from a cost standpoint and execution level, I needed partners to help with logistics and on the ground real time information,” Murray said. “I found that with W4W and Electric.”
Murray said that the relief needs have changed somewhat since the initial days after the storm.
“Now, they’re looking for the tools needed to rebuild; hand tools, hardware, extension cords. Things you would need on a construction site.” In addition to those items, Murray said, his organization is still collecting warm clothes and personal hygiene items, which are still a need in the region.
For information on the relief efforts, check www.wavesforwater.org.
Debra Gietter, a Realtor at Luxre Realty in San Clemente, is also a New Jersey native. Her hometown, Manasquan, is also located on the Jersey coast, in the central part of the state.
“The town is completely devastated,” Gietter said. “My parents still need to have a permit to get to their house or to go get groceries.” What hurt most, she said, was that many of the landmarks of her childhood were devastated by the storm.
“The boardwalk in Point Pleasant is completely gone. When I was growing up, I used to think about how my feet were touching the same boards as someone did in the ’30s.”
Gietter said she had not yet returned to the town, and was shipping clothing to an area Red Cross Center.
Gietter said she immediately contacted the Red Cross to see what she could do to help, noting that the organization was still scrambling to figure out what it needed at the time she called. Unlike Murray, who joined up with an organization to help organize a larger effort, Geitter has simply put up a sign at her Avenida Del Mar office indicating she was taking donations for Sandy relief. She said she’s been overwhelmed by the support of the community. Throughout the day, she said, people will just stop in to put a $20 bill in a donation can to support her home region.
“I know no one, I’m just sitting in the front of the office and people walk in. Some have been my agents, who stop in and drop their change in the can. One woman stopped in recently and donated a mink coat. They are strangers who are just looking to help.”
One woman, Gietter said, expressed hope that should a disaster befall California, that those on the East Coast would reciprocate the support. “She said, ‘When we have our ‘Big One,’ the people in the east will help.’”
Geitter said some have even offered to donate blood.
Even San Clemente residents who are not natives of the affected region have joined the effort. San Clemente artist Susan Cox has painted “city-scapes” for a number of years, including some in New York. Cox said she’d donated personally to relief efforts, but wanted to do more.
“I saw some publicity on the New York Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City,” Cox said. After looking through a number of her New York paintings, she settled on a painting of Times Square, and decided to sell prints of the painting for $15, with half the proceeds going to the charitable fund. Cox said she’d lived through a similar experience as many in the affected area, having once been snowed-in without power while vacationing in England for several days. To purchase the poster, check susancoxart.blogspot.com.