Archive for the ‘Outreach’ Category

Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving in Ships Bottom   1 comment

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Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving in Ships Bottom

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Dennis J. Kowal AIA uses a microphone to notify residents of Long Beach Island that hot Thanksgiving Meals are being served.

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As a Board member of the Central Chapter of the American Red Cross, Dennis J. Kowal AIA, principal of Dennis Kowal Architects realized many of the Red Cross volunteers needed a break on Thanksgiving Day so they could join their families.  He and his interior designer wife, Susan Kowal, were happy to forego their own traditions and head out at 6am to serve Turkey Dinners to allow some of the Red Cross staff to take the day off.    One hundred and nine Red Cross Vehicles like the one pictured above canvassed Sandy-ravaged New Jersey to deliver meals prepared by volunteers from the Southern Baptist Convention.    Susan commented “I’d rather be doing this than anything else today!  These people on Long Beach Island have no heat, no natural gas, and not a single store or food establishment open today.     If it wasn’t for the Red Cross, they would be alone without a meal.”

During a meal distribution at the Buccaneer Motel where displaced residents were relocated who  no longer had homes, cars, or possessions, one resident was heard to say that they only thing they had in their room was a can of nuts and “we really appreciate the daily meals brought to the Island by the American Red Cross”.  Down the street other residents were shoveling four feet of sand out of the first floor of their homes and appreciated the meal and water delivery.  Amazingly, on the opposite corner, the homes did not have sand at all but only muck from the bay.  Apparently, flooding from the Ocean side met the flooding from the bay side at this corner and left two different scenarios for homeowners to face.

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Susan Kowal serving hot turkey, string beans, mashed potatoes with gravy, apple sauce and a snack pack of goodies and water from the window in the side of the Red Cross truck known as an ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle).  Families were even given a Thanksgiving table cloth but the best gift is sometimes just compassion or chance to talk about each situation. Despite the 27 degree early morning temperatures, strict Food handling guidelines and procedures assure that the 7,500 meals served every day to the Jersey Shore storm residents are safe, tasty, and steaming hot.  Red Cross volunteers came from every state in the nation on three week rotations to help with shelters, meals and assisting residents with paperwork and re-starting their lives. 
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House Calls in Ships Bottom, New Jersey!   Dennis, led by a neighbor who knew this woman was alone, crippled and isolated on Thanksgiving, brings warm blankets and a turkey dinner.  This resident was forced to move to the second floor of their house as the entire first floor was flooded and is now just an empty shell. A spontaneous Thanksgiving prayer during a lull offered by volunteers from various partner groups was interrupted when the Team Leader shouted “Incoming!”   (meaning a group of residents was walking toward the ERV’s.  Workers had to jump back into the vehicles to get the serving lines running again…so much for a break!).
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Sand had to be shoveled out of many homes. It’s odd to see more debris than cars or people on a popular Long Beach Island street.
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A thankful young woman surprised Dennis with a hug after he offered her a  sweatshirt on this cold morning.  JC Penny’s and many other businesses donated thousands of coats and sweatshirts.

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These volunteers are a long way from their families in North Carolina and are seen here preparing one order of mashed potatoes, enough for 100 off-site meals.  The Waretown kitchen, K-3, was a fully inspected commercial kitchen set up in temporary tents and these workers will not get home for the Holiday.  The day begins by loading the ERVs with enough food to serve 300 people each and the day ends at dusk with cleaning everything for use again tomorrow. Early on Thanksgiving morning, some of the 43 ERVs lined up to receive their day’s supply of hot food at K-3.  Some trucks go to shelters, some to street corners, and others make set rounds. Other ERVs left from two other kitchen locations to serve the entire State. 
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  Susan and her friend, Linda Blair-Cusumano, baked ten homemade pumpkin pies to surprise the North Carolina kitchen workers.    Since the kitchen workers would be going back to hotels and tent cities at night to eat prepared foods for their own belated Thanksgiving, Susan thought it would be great to treat them with a little taste of home cooking.  Unfortunately, the gas oven broke at this point and all the raw pies had to be carried to a neighbor’s house to finish!  Mission was accomplished in time and the workers loved being appreciated this way at the end of a long day!

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Donations for Hurricane Sandy can be made to the Red Cross at www.redcross.org

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Posted November 30, 2012 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Outreach

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