Elizabethtown College Online Magazine

Alumni Assist with Sandy Clean-up

It’s been months since Hurricane Sandy tore across the East Coast and, for many coastal town residents, the storm is not just a recent event; it is still being lived. Many E-town alumni live, full time, or own vacation properties in communities hit by Sandy. Those affected by the superstorm aren’t focused solely on their own losses but also on helping rebuild their communities—people like Ellen DeStefano P’15.

DeStefano and Kathy Montgomery ’81, friends and co-deacons of External Missions at Colonial Park United Church of Christ (CPUCC) in Harrisburg, Pa., coordinated a collection drive for clean-up items and money to help New Jersey shore residents affected by Hurricane Sandy.

“CPUCC is a small church with a big heart; there [is] only about 150 average attendance on any given Sunday, but we are often able to raise what I think are amazing amounts of money for good causes when it is presented to the congregation,” said DeStefano.

DeStefano, whose daughter Chelsea attends Elizabethtown, was personally affected by the storm. Her family has a shore house in Beach Haven West, N.J., an area that was hard hit by the storm. The small, three-bedroom home—situated on a canal off Barnegat Bay—sat in five feet of water. It is now just a shell.

We are all very much aware that it is only a shore house, and we have a warm and dry home to live in. Many in that community are not so fortunate…

“We lost everything—all furniture, appliances, electric services, gas,” she said, via email. Despite their loss, the DeStefanos count their blessings. “Many, if not most of the homes were damaged and many are now slated for demolition. We are all very much aware that it is only a shore house, and we have a warm and dry home to live in. Many in that community are not so fortunate: That is/was their home, and they are devastated,” stated DeStafano.

Her permanent-resident neighbors on the other side—a mother and adult son—refused to go to a shelter. Instead, they weathered the aftermath in a damaged home because they didn’t want to leave their two dogs. They draped tarps over soaked mattresses and relied on a generator—when they could get gas. Sometimes they slept in their car with the heater on to stay warm. The house is now scheduled to be condemned.

DeStefano took pictures of her devastated home and neighborhood and created a slideshow, which she shared with the congregation. The money and items poured in.

Montgomery adds that in just two weeks CPUCC had raised $1,240 in cash and collected more than 70 relief items, including detergent, soap, trash bags, toothpaste, diapers, wipes, baby formula and batteries. She, DeStefano and other volunteers delivered the items to Mission Central, a mission warehouse of the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church, located in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Montgomery wanted to make sure that the specific items the CPUCC congregation donated made it to New Jersey. “The facilities manager told me, ‘See that truck over there? We’re putting them right in it and it’s going to Jersey tomorrow morning’,” recalled Montgomery. “It was awesome to have been able to participate in a real grassroots effort. The people of our congregation were happy to give, especially knowing that their efforts were being felt, immediately, by those in need.”