WILDWOOD – A group of more than 40 American Baptist volunteers cleaned up under the boardwalk on Aug. 15 and 16 as they completed their final week of volunteer work for Sandy victims.
The multiple week program, “Coming Together for New Jersey” was developed by the American Baptist Home Mission Societies and American Baptist Churches of New Jersey in response to Hurricane Sandy.
Bringing the group to Wildwood was the work of local residents Lisa Brocco-Collia, southern New Jersey regional Sandy coordinator, and her colleague, Jayson Rempo.
Members of the group include representatives from New Jersey, Michigan, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Florida, among others.
“I explained we’ve been forgotten down here,” said Brocco-Collia in a release, referring to post-Sandy clean-up efforts. “Every day we find people who have been affected by Sandy.”
On Aug. 15, volunteers walked along the edge of the boardwalk, as well as beneath it, looking for the remains of personal effects that might have been washed from homes flooded by the storm. If possible, items found will be returned to their owners.
In addition to finding and returning personal effects the group will also remove debris left behind from Sandy’s wrath as well as other trash and weeds.
On Friday, Aug. 16, the same volunteers installed three beach paths that were washed away during the October hurricane. These wooden paths reach out from the boardwalk, across the city’s wide beach, allowing beachgoers access to the water’s edge.
Denise Gratzel, Disaster Response Coordinator for the American Baptist Church, was one of the volunteers, said the group found a driver’s license and some photos. Gratzel said any personal effects found would be given to the mayor’s office in order for them to be returned to their owners.
According to Gratzel, the majority of items were found by sifting through sand close to the walls of the boardwalk.
Another volunteer, Woody Curtis of Camden, Delaware, was familiar with disaster recovery, having volunteered in Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“It is an outreach,” Curtis said of the volunteers. “From a spiritual dimension, if you feel that God has called you to reach out to people in ways that are far beyond your
City Commissioner Pete Byron said Wildwood appreciated the efforts of the volunteers.
“We are fortunate that we were spared the wrath of Sandy,” said Byron, who oversees the city’s beach services. “While we were spared, we appreciate the volunteers sprucing up the area under the Boardwalk.”