After Irene, Volunteers Come Out in One NJ Community

Hundreds try to make a difference

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Hundreds of volunteers are making a difference for some of those hardest hit by Irene in Monroe Township, N.J. (Published Tuesday, Sep 6, 2011)

    Volunteers came out by the hundreds in Monroe Township, N.J., after Hurricane Irene caused creeks to swell and damaged about 200 homes, according to Mayor Richard Pucci.

    An estimated 400 volunteers removed waterlogged carpet and Sheetrock, took trash to the streets, and manned a community center where flooded out residents can get canned goods, clothing, toys and even disposable diapers. 

    "Just to help other people, people who are going through rough times," said Dylan McLaughlin, 11, who with his younger brother and a friend helped carry damaged property from homes out to the curb for pick-up later.

    "They are not people, they are angels," Afaf Fakhry, 75 and a retired school teacher, said of the volunteers who were clearing out the damage from her downstairs.

    All that was left below the high water mark were 4-by-4 wood studs and the concrete floor where there once had been a family room, closets and a bathroom.

    But it was an 11-year-old boy who had come by her house a few days ago that made her cry.

    "He hugged me and in his hand there was some money," she said, breaking into tears. "(He) told me, 'This is my own savings, please take it and bring something new in your house.'"

    Fakhry wouldn't take it. But she told NBC New York that she suggested the boy to come back later and she would give him 10 times as much, referring, she said, to a religious saying that, "If you give to someone for a hardship, God will give you 10 times in return."

    On one street, Nicole Sosnowski turned a bedsheet into a "thank you" sign to volunteers and the town's Department of Public Works.

    "The road department guys were going out of their own pockets and buying water," Sosnowski said.

    There are so many volunteers working on the many flooded streets of Monroe that Red Cross volunteers from out of state spend part of their time just feeding them.

    Lunch trucks go out every day for that purpose.

    At the Community Center, the gymnasium was turned into a department store of sorts, though the clothing, toys and food was free for the taking by Irene's victims.

    "This even went beyond my expectations, this is just absolutely fantastic," said Pucci.

    Monroe has a Facebook page, a website, www.iwanttohelpmonroe.org, and is planning a fundraiser Sept. 23 for $125 per person at the nearby Forsgate Country Club with all of the money raised going to flood victims.

    Follow  Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY