‘We want them to have a better Thanksgiving’ -- Gazette.Net



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This story was corrected Nov. 8, 2012.

Isabel Gorres and about 40 members of her church are hoping to help out those who lost everything in Hurricane Sandy, one turkey sandwich at a time.

They are gathering this week at St. Andrew Apostle Catholic Church in Wheaton to make what they hope will turn out to be 2,000 sandwiches to take to St. Benedict Catholic Church and school in Holmdel, N.J., one of the towns that was in the hurricane’s path.

“It is the right thing to do to respond. If this happened to us, we would hope someone would heed the call. It is an opportunity to mobilize and put our faith into action,” Gorres said.

Many people are coming together to help those who weren’t fortunate to dodge the storm’s path. As images of destruction pour out of New York and New Jersey, residents here are finding ways to reach out to help provide comfort for those in need.

Twelve-year-old Abbi Audas and her 9-year-old brother Andrew of Bethesda watched TV coverage of the storm damage and decided they could do something to help. The two are working together to get their classmates at Bradley Hills Elementary School and Pyle Middle School to donate blankets, mittens, hats, coats and scarves so their family can bring the items to a rescue mission in Atlantic City when the family heads there to spend their Thanksgiving vacation working as volunteers for those in need there.

“We want them to have a better Thanksgiving,” Abbi told The Gazette on Monday. They named the effort Project Keep Them Cozy. Drop boxes are located at both schools and the family said they will accept donations of gently used and new items at their home at 5647 Old Chester Road in Bethesda.

Soley Somma of Wheaton knows what it is like to have your home serve as a donation drop-off location. Piles of donated clothes, sorted and tagged, were staged at her home before being loaded onto a 14-foot rental truck and transported to the New Jersey and New York area.

A New Yorker by birth, she and her husband Dan, a Coast Guard officer, moved to Maryland in 2006. Pictures of her home state after the hurricane prompted her to launch into action to help.

“I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t just sit here,” she said. “I donated money but I really wanted a hands-on connection. Often times people lose interest, they donate their $10 and now it is somebody else’s job.”

What started with a few friends and plans to fill a car has now grown to a Facebook page — www.facebook.com/MDSandyRelief — and the need to rent a 14-foot truck. The items — clothing, personal hygiene products, baby goods and other supplies — will go to a QueensMamas.com distribution center in Rockaway, N.J., and to the Coast Guard station in Staten Island, N.Y., where her husband worked when he lived there.

“I have had people all day sorting all the items, labeling and re-sorting so when we get there we only give them what they need,” she said. Just Monday Somma said she had 60 people drop off items at her house at 2617 Parker Ave.

She headed out of town on Tuesday morning with a full load.

Included in that truck were about 1,000 bottles of water donated to her effort from Nourish Now, a nonprofit organization that picks up leftover foods from catering and grocery stores to donate to those in need.

Brett Meyers, founder and executive director, connected with Somma through The Gazette, getting the water on board that had been headed to a Safeway grocery store. Myers said the pallet of water was a rejected order by the company.

Nourish Now also donated about 500 to 700 meals on Saturday night to a shelter outside of Atlantic City. The food was left over from Pepco’s order for workers called out to help restore power in Maryland.

Father Dan Leary, pastor of St. Andrews Church, where Somma and Gorres attend, has also launched another relief effort in addition to the sandwich-making brigade.

He called upon parishioners to donate funds and was able to purchase about $8,000 worth of canned foods and fresh fruit via a food wholesaler in Maryland. He’s got a truck planned to head to the same Holmdel church for distribution to places that need it.

“If I don’t give my cup of water to the ocean than the ocean is lacking,” he said of the effort. He said he says he is also collecting clothing and other items victims may need. He said someone attending a recent funeral where he officiated handed him money with a note saying, “This is for underwear.”

“You might like the sandwiches but you also might like the underwear. We want to give you everything you need,” he said of those in need.

Another way people in Montgomery County can help Sandy survivors and victims is to make monetary donations, according to representatives from local branches of American Red Cross and Salvation Army.

To donate to Red Cross, visit redcross.org or call 800-RED-CROS (800-733-2767), said Cheryl Kravitz, spokeswoman of American Red Cross in the National Capital Region. To donate via text message, text the words “red cross” to 90999, and then respond to a confirmation email to have a $10 donation added to your phone bill.

By selecting to donate to “disaster relief” online or on the phone, people can be sure their donations will go to help those hurting from Sandy, Kravitz said.

To find a place to donate blood, visit www.redcrossblood.org, or call 800-RED-CROS.

To give to the Salvation Army, visit salvationarmyusa.org or call 800-SAL-ARMY(800-725-2769), and specify the donation for the “2012 hurricane season,” Forsythe said. To donate via text message, send a text with the word “storm” to 80888 and then respond to a confirmation email to have a $10 donation added to your phone bill.

A $10 donation will provide a box of food staples for one day for a family of four; a $30 donation will pay for a household clean-up kit; a $100 donation will help provide food and drinks to survivors and emergency personnel.

Staff Writer Jen Bondeson contributed to this report.

This story was corrected to include the correct Facebook link.