Morristown making connections to help Sandy survivors


By Sharon Sheridan, MG Kids editor

This is a story about connections.

Actually, it starts with a disconnection – of electricity throughout much of the state in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. But St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown maintained its electric connection and, through its connections to folks in the community, became a warming, recharging and feeding station serving three meals a day for 10 days.

My own home in Flanders did not stay connected to the power grid – in fact, had wires ripped off the house and hanging from the telephone poles in front of the house – so I spent a lot of time working from St. Peter’s and helping with the relief efforts there.

Besides writing for and editing our MG Kids section, I also write for the Episcopal News Service and spent those post-hurricane days chronicling the relief efforts of various Episcopal churches, including St. Peter’s. Thanks to those articles as well as Facebook and e-mail, I stayed connected with other church communicators around the country, keeping them up to date on how and what we were doing.

Berit Ollestad shows off one of the handmade cards and a lapful of gloves and mittens from the children of Holy Innocents' Episcopal School in Atlanta to children affected by Hurricane Sandy. Sharon Sheridan photo

That led to a new connection when one of those communicators, Peggy Shaw, who read about the relief work at St. Peter’s and how the youth group had helped out. Peggy is the public relations director for Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Atlanta, which holds an annual “mitten drive.” The children in the school’s Alan A. Lewis Primary School wanted to donate the winter wear they collected in late 2012 to hurricane survivors. Could they send the items to St. Peter’s?

Of course we said, “Yes!”

A large box of mittens, gloves and scarves arrived as a gift for children affected by Sandy.

“Our students recently read a book called ‘The Mitten Tree’ by Candace Christiansen and Elaine Greenstein, and the story of a grandmother who knits mittens and leaves them hanging on a tree for those in need inspired our kids to help in whatever small way they can,” Principal Greg Kaiser wrote. “Please know that the thoughts and prayers of the students and faculty of Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School are with you as you and your church family continue to support those in need.”

Earlier, St. Peter’s had supported a coat drive through Staples in Morristown to help hurricane survivors, and a few bags of coats, hats, mittens and other winter clothing – including children’s items – had arrived after that drive ended. So we had a nice collection of items to donate.

Meanwhile, contributor Berit Ollestad had made a connection of her own with the Hugh Boyd Elementary School in Seaside Heights, damaged by flooding from the hurricane.

Seaside Heights was one of the New Jersey towns hardest hit by the storm, which severely damaged the boardwalk. One of the iconic images of Sandy’s destruction is of a roller coaster sitting in the water after the amusement pier partially collapsed.

Even before the hurricane, the school principal told Berit, 94 percent of the students received free or reduced-price lunches, and many of their parents worked on the boardwalk. A large number of students remain displaced from their homes as well as the school building.

Berit is collecting items such as granola bars, snack packs, juice boxes, fruit cups, $10 gift cards and small toys, as well as clear plastic containers to package them in, at the intersection of Hamilton Road and Franklin Street through Feb. 18.

Thanks to our mutual MG connection, St. Peter’s has now donated the children’s clothing items from Atlanta and Morristown to the Seaside Heights children. The box from Atlanta contained cards created by the schoolchildren there. Berit’s hoping this will help forge one more connection, with perhaps some correspondence back from the New Jersey youngsters.

More information about how you can connect with the efforts to help the children of Seaside Heights is available here.

Berit Ollestad sits at the collection station amidst boxes and bags of children's winter clothing items donated via St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Morristown to help schoolchildren in Seaside Heights affected by Hurricane Sandy. Sharon Sheridan photo
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