WEST CALDWELL, NJ - Hurricane Sandy hit everyone hard throughout the West Essex area, including West Caldwell where power wasn't turned on until Tuesday, November 6th.
With trees down and branches everywhere, the West Caldwell Police Department were not only involved with controlling the growing problem of huge lines at gas stations and checking on those families whose power had not yet been restored, but they were also going out and getting directly into the recovery effort by cutting branches away from wires and loading up trucks with debris to keep the roads clear for utility crews to drive through.
But once our crisis began to subdue here in West Essex, the West Caldwell Police knew it was time to turn their attention to the thousands of people distressed by the hurricane along the New Jersey coast.
By Saturday, November 10th, they had already put in place a full-blown charitable unit located at the former K-B Toy Store, next to Sear's Hardware - at 911 Bloomfield Avenue, West Caldwell.
The collection center itself was generously donated to the police by the space's owner, Goodrich Management Corp.
"Detective Paul Mazzeo and I planned this together," West Caldwell Detective Sergeant Shaun O'Dowd explained. "We worked with Howard Gordon from Goodrich; we are so appreciative of this location - they did not hesitate to donate the space to us. Our goal is to fill the empty store front with supplies coming from the West Essex area."
O' Dowd continued, "We've contacted emergency crews along the Jersey Shore and targeted municipalities that may have been neglected.
These crews will be directing us to specific neighborhoods still waiting for donations. In this way - rather than bringing everything to a large, overflowing warehouse where everything will still need to be accessed and sorted - people who are in need will be receiving goods directly off the truck - from us to them.
Today we just heard of a demand for work gloves and facemasks."
Walking into the large open store front, boxes are piled up along the wall and far into the back of the room.
West Caldwell's Phyllis Kinnally described her experience: "I parked in the reserved spot and someone came out to my car with a shopping cart, loaded the cart and brought it inside!! It couldn't have been easier!!"
West Caldwell police officers Detective Paul Mazzeo, Captain Gerard Paris, and Sergeant Daniel Gorman have been busy working into the evening boxing up donations as they arrive and labeling the cartons that they are placed in.
Detective Mazzeo said, "I'm pleased with the initial response from residents and hope it will grow throughout the week."
The drive runs daily until Sunday November 18, from 8am to 8pm.
Nancy Bertoldi of Roseland recounted, "My husband dropped off some things and even offered to drive the donations down if they needed someone! Thank you to the West Caldwell Police Department!"
Specifically, the department is seeking:
NEW OR LIKE NEW IN ALL CASES:
* Household Items
* Personal Hygiene items
* Non-perishable Foods
* Baby Supplies including Formula and Diapers
* Pet Supplies
* Cleaning Supplies
* Work Gloves, Facemasks
* NEW Socks, NEW Underwear - No other clothes are being accepted
North Caldwell's Traci Flanagan was there to drop off some items, "It's so nice to know people are coming together! I dropped off some stuff and the police came out and even unloaded it. The police said 'Thank You!' We should be thanking them! God Bless!!!"
O'Dowd's brother, Sergeant David O'Dowd, a Montclair Police Officer, is spearheading the drive at the Clairidge Theater in Montclair.
Detective 'Dowd stated: "Everything we collect will go directly to the West Caldwell Police, and then combined, it will all be taken to those in need."
The Clairidge Theater drop off hours are 9am to 7pm, daily, until Sunday, Nov. 18.
West Caldwell's Captain Paris commented, "the West Essex community has always been generous and the initial response reflects that fact.
On Monday, Nov. 19th, we're loading up the trucks, and these donations will be driven straight down to waiting families in need. We are very grateful to the people who have been coming out."
Collections continue until Sunday:
West Caldwell Site:
911 Bloomfield Ave, West Caldwell, NJ
between Marshall's and Sears
8am to 8pm
Daily until Sunday, November 18th
486 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair, NJ
9am to 7pm
Daily until Sunday, November 18th