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In the spirit of the season

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These Middlesex residents collected and carried supplies to help the people of Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn, New York, after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy struck the community. Pictured above, from left, are Leslie Krom, Meghan Krom, Patsy Milby and David Milby. Not pictured is Mary Ellen Sherwood. (Photo by Larry Chowning)

by Larry S. Chowning

When Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New Jersey and New York in October, thousands of volunteers from across the U.S. traveled to the disaster area in an effort to help—including five Middlesex County residents.

Leslie Krom of Wake has relatives living in Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn, a borough of New York City that suffered the wrath of Sandy. Leslie reached out to the residents of Virginia and other states in an effort to help the residents of Gerritsen Beach.

Leslie’s aunts and uncles lost their homes during the hurricane so she and her mother, Mary Ellen Sherwood of Wake, decided they’d make a trip to New York to see what they could do to help. Before they left, Leslie used Facebook to try to raise money for the mission.

“They were trying to get their kids back in school,” said Leslie. “So, I put on Facebook, ‘I’m going to New York. I’d like to take school supplies. Please donate.’

“I ended up with a carload of school supplies that I dropped off at the Gerritsen Beach Volunteer Fire Department building so the kids could have school supplies when they did go back to school,” said Leslie.

“When I got back home I sent out a thank-you on Facebook,” said Leslie. “Pat (Milby) had contributed to the school supply fund and she said, ‘If you do anything else like this I’d like to help.’

“I said, ‘Pat I can’t do that. I’m working full-time, have exams coming up and it takes a whole lot of coordination to make it all work,’ ” said Leslie. “I told Pat if she wanted to coordinate it, I’d be glad to ride up there to help with the delivery.”

In less than a week, Milby, of Warner, collected over $3,000 in donations from friends and families in Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Maryland and California. James River Corporation donated a pallet of over 3,000 industrial garbage bags, and Walmart and Lowe’s each gave a 10% discount on all cleaning supplies and pet food purchased toward the effort. 

After making the purchases, coordinating with the Gerritsen Beach Fire Department and loading Pat’s truck, the two ladies set out along with Pat’s husband, David, and Leslie’s daughter, Meghan, in the early morning hours of November 24 for the 14-hour round trip.

“The devastation these people have experienced is unbelievable,” said Pat this week, “and we are just happy and thankful to help provide some of the supplies they so desperately need right now.”

“They were so thankful for the help,” said Leslie. “My family’s homes were destroyed and when we arrived a group of Mormons from all over the country was in their house tearing out tile flooring and working on the house.

“The Mormons had nowhere to stay,” said Leslie. “They were sleeping on floors in people’s homes and in campers.”

Pat pointed out that two groups, The Buddhist TZA Chi Foundation and The Mormons, are in full force working in the homes—free of charge.

“People are working hard to help and it’s so uplifting to see people trying to help people, and the people of Gerritsen Beach appreciated so much us bringing them aid,” said Leslie.

Leslie also noted the Buddhist TZA Chi Foundation gave a $600 food debit card to every family in the community.

“It was my connection, having family there, that made it more personal to the people here who gave so generously to help us carry things to the people there,” said Leslie. “It was an incredible outpouring of love.

“I can’t say enough about Pat,” continued Leslie. “She did all the work [on the second trip] and wants none of the credit. But she did it all.”

posted 12.19.2012

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