Originally published November 15, 2011…

A question that has become even more common after Superstorm Sandy is, “How can I help?”

So many wonderful people here want to do something; they just do not know what will have the most impact as well as immediately cut through red tape.

“I couldn’t sit in my warm kitchen with the TV going, knowing people like me at the shore had problems that they couldn’t do anything to avoid,” said Greg Benza of Annandale, while he was helping to clean the beach in Ocean Grove.  “I never volunteered like this before.”

I spoke with four of the inspiring people like Benza, who chose to take time away from their own personal priorities to help someone impacted by Sandy.

Satellite view of Superstorm Sandy

Getting Carded

Amy Quinn wanted to channel the benevolent energy of her hungry-to-help friends – including Heather Jensen, Jill Potter, Steven Froias, Jeffrey Seeds and Joe Woerner – so she created the “Get Carded” grass roots initiative to help locals who are without electricity or lost their washers and dryers, clean their clothes and bedding.

Individuals and businesses are encouraged to donate pre-paid cards to local Laundromats in $20 increments.  The cards will then be distributed with the help of Interfaith Neighbors.

“It is an effective way to make a difference quickly,” said Quinn.  “Also, the card campaign is an affordable and easy way to help.  And isn’t it fun being cheap and easy now and then?”

The campaign, with a large kick-start donation from Ted and Cathy Bianchi of Busy B’s Laundry on Main Street in Neptune, has gone viral.  More than $1000 in cards have been donated in the past 10 days.

“This idea worked for me because it cuts through the administrative waste and gets my money directly to the people who need it,” said a man who dropped off two cards at the ReStore and declined to give his name.  “I don’t know Amy but I think she is good for doing this.”

You can drop off the pre-paid Laundromat cards at the Conover Agency on Main Street or the ReStore on Third Avenue (both in Asbury Park) by Friday, Nov. 16.

Feeding Families

When Steffan Manno, owner of Giamano’s Restaurant told Dr. Thomas D’Andrea he was organizing an “adopt a family” meal program, the area chiropractor jumped right in.

“The goal is to provide routine, healthy meals to displaced families,” said D’Andrea.  “I ‘adopted’ two families.  Steffan supplies the food so this is an easy way to help.  I have been amazed at how people are helping their neighbors.  It is wonderful.”

Giamano’s Restaurant in Bradley Beach has several sponsors according to D’Andrea and is looking for more.

Supporting Strangers

For Kathy Kelly, owner of Paranormal Books in Asbury Park, it is not really what she did to help after Sandy – moreso, it is really about a friend’s impact on the community.

“Sandy has done more to reaffirm humanity for me than anything I have experienced before,” said Kelly.  “So many people have opened their lives up to strangers that it still amazes me. One person, though, to me has gone above and beyond. Her name is Melanie Knobel and she has spent each day and each night finding ways to directly impact the lives of people who lost everything – truly going above and beyond.  Using Facebook she created ‘adopt a family hurricane sandy’ and she is doing one-on-one assistance, too. She deserves so much credit.”

Visit Knobel’s Facebook page for more info.

Helping Friends

Serena Soffer of Asbury Park sat in front of her computer, charging from a local business’ generator learning about Sandy’s devastation post-by-post on Facebook.

“I read a post about friend from high school who lives with her family in Toms River and whose home was ravaged by the storm,” said Soffer, an area yoga and dance instructor.  “We were great friends in school and just gradually drifted apart.  Three old girlfriends set a date to go and help our friend.  It was exhausting physically and emotionally shoveling muck out of her house and picking through the remnants for something save-able.  By the end of the day we had a smile on our friend’s face, talking about our past and the moments we had together.  I feel like reconnecting with a good friend is something good that has come out of all this.”

Do you have or know of a story of personal kindness post-Sandy?  Email me: