When Hurricane Sandy hit the Bayshore area, she took everything with her. Towns like Union Beach continue to struggle with debris, housing, insurance forms, flood maps and the rest of Sandy's destructive leftovers.
Residents of Colts Neck are stepping up to the plate. Former mayor Jarrett Engel quickly saw the destruction in neighboring towns, and gathered the talent and good hearts of Colts Neck to aid in the long road to recovery.
Operation Provides Comfort began with Engel and a handful of other people, and has evolved into a standing committee in partnership with Union Beach officials and residents.
Tom Clarke, member of OPC in Colts Neck, said the committee has helped Union Beach with everything from getting donations, organizing storage for donations and longterm planning.
"We felt as a group this was something we could do right away."
Of the estimated 3,000 homes in Union Beach, Clarke said approximately 630 have been or are schedule to be knocked down.
"The question now is, how do we save the rest?"
By tapping the expertise and generosity of Colts Neck residents, OPC plans to work with Union Beach and bounce ideas about how to rebuild.
"Initially there were donations of food and other necessities," Clarke said. "During Christmas, we collected and delivered toys for the children. Now, we're into the building and restoration phase."
Clarke said the group has already received one $25,000 donation, and hopes to get a corporate match soon.
As a member of the Lions Club, Clarke said the chapter also wanted to contribute through fundraising. A post-Valentine's Day dinner and dance will donate all profits to OPC and relief for Union Beach residents.
The event, at Trump National Golf Club, is from 7 p.m. to midnight on Feb. 16. Tickets for the event are $100 per person. Those interested can call Clarke at (732) 332-0409.
Clarke said while OPC is not organizing specific volunteer efforts, those looking to help are welcome at the Union Beach Town Hall where employees can direct volunteers to areas in need. Clarke said not all areas in need require manual labor.