Volunteering at the Wildwood disaster relief site


Zachary Brooks, a communications major at Camden County College, writes about volunteering at the disaster relief site at Notre Dame de la Mer Parish in Wildwood on Nov. 3.

I live in Williamstown and the drive to Wildwood was little more than an hour. As I reached Wildwood, I was expecting to see some physical destruction or other signs of Hurricane Sandy. I saw the partial remains of an ad on a billboard and a 50 MPH sign hanging upside down as I left, but don’t remember seeing any wrecked buildings on my way into the city.  Some buildings had the windows boarded up and one of the boarded up windows had been spray-painted. It said, “Sandy, you’re not the one that I want.”

When I pulled up to the St. Ann’s parking lot, where the Catholic Charities truck and tables were set up, there was a small crowd milling about. I wandered into the center of the group and was approached by a volunteer who sent me over to the tables to sign a volunteer liability release form.

The Catholic Charities truck was filled with cases of bottled water and canned food, with some additional items, such as bleach. The items from the truck were being handed out according to the needs of the people who approached it.

Off to the side of the truck, there were clothes being emptied from bags and sorted into sections. This was where I spent my time Saturday. I mainly helped to size and organize the area with men’s clothes. Before that, I unpacked some bags with kid’s clothes, one of which I had packed the day before at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Williamstown.

There were also areas for women’s clothes, girls’ clothes, boys’ clothes, infant clothes and toddler clothes. There was a section with infant, toddler, little girl and women’s shoes. There were few, if any, shoes for little boys while I was there. There were about six pairs of shoes for men and six packs of socks for men and women combined.

There was a box of soap, shampoos, conditioners, body washes, shaving razors and other assorted bathroom items. There was a smaller box next to it filled with toothpaste and toothbrushes. There were some toys for the kids, too.

There were three college age volunteers from Philadelphia and a few middled-aged women volunteering in the clothes area as well. Other volunteers were unloading the truck or stationed at the tables. I heard that one of the volunteers had driven from Pittsburgh to be there.

As people came up to us, we would try to find what clothes they needed in their sizes. We didn’t always have the type of clothing or size needed, but everyone seemed to find something they could use. I don’t recall anyone walking away without something. Some left with bags so filled with clothes that we offered to help carry them.

It was windy and very cold all day. One young boy didn’t have shoes. He was wearing slippers and since we had no shoes to give, we gave him two pairs of socks to wear with them.

It became steadily busier throughout the day, both with donors dropping off supplies and people coming to pick up what they needed.

When I went home, I didn’t look at my possessions the same. I saw my shoes and thought of the little boy walking outside in slippers.