HOPATCONG, NJ – Superstorm Sandy left Hopatcong in the dark with trees down on streets and yard and, all too often, houses.
In all, 15 houses in the borough, mostly bungalows, were condemned and had to be demolished, often with their contents.
"Some people couldn’t get out without help,” Robin DeLorenzo said, adding they couldn’t save their possessions, never mind their memories.
After getting her own power back, DeLorenzo drove around the borough, and was horrified at what she saw. She decided she wanted to help, and called Mario Pavinci to see if she could hold a benefit at his restaurant.
"Mario has a heart bigger than this place,” she said, indicating Pavinci’s while standing in the lobby the night of the benefit. “All I had to say was ‘Hopatcong Hurricane” and he set up the benefit for Sunday, Dec. 2.
Meanwhile, DeLorenzo went to the borough building department and found out about the 15 condemned houses.
"All 15 families were hit bad, but I can’t help 15 families,” she said.
She decided to help three. A couple of families turned her down, but three accepted the assistance.
Mike and Christy Nicotras are nine-year residents of the borough. They have two sons, Mikey, 9, and Dominic, 8. Mike is Cubmaster of Cub Scout Pack 88, and the family belongs to St. Therese Roman Catholic Church in Succasunna.
Mike, Bonnie and Gavin Coover are also active in the community. Bonnie and Gavin were at home when three trees came through their house. They were rescued by the Hopatcong Volunteer Fire Department.
Margaret Smith and her nephew were also rescued from their bungalow when six trees uprooted the foundation and caved in the house.
The multi-faceted benefit started at 3 p.m. with a welcome from Master of Ceremonies Pete DeLorenzo, no relation to Robin, but from the same part of the state.
“She went to school with my nephew,” Pete said.
A comedian, actor, recording artist, screenwriter, producer and director, he is head of DeLorenzo Enterprizes and PKI Productions. Pete said he is casting Robin in his next movie.
Robin is a singer who has been in a number of bands, and is now lead singer with the Manny Charlton band. Charlton is formerly with Nazareth.
A career in event planning helped her put together the benefit in only two and a half weeks.
The Danny Nova Band, Who’s Johnny, and Lost in Place provided entertainment. All are local bands. Three live auctions, a silent auction, and a 50/50 raised funds, as did a kids raffle, and a dessert contest.
Throughout the event, Calvary Chapel Morris Hills of Dover signed up people who need help with storm clean-up, and Lake Hopatcong calendars with photos of the lake by local residents were sold.
Even before the event, the group collected $900 from a little girl in Colorado and more donations from the local community.
She said she started getting calls from people willing to help as soon as she posted the invitation on a Facebook Page.
Before the end of the event, DeLorenzo said about $13,500 had been raised. Her target is $15,000.
She acknowledged there was more devastation down by the shore, but “I wanted to start at home,” DeLorenzo said.
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