By Michele J. Kuhn
RED BANK – Step into Sounds to Go DJs on East Front Street and it seems chaotic.
Watch for a moment and you realized it’s an organized chaos with dozens of young volunteers working at warp speed to get many supplies as possible – food, clothing, toiletries, pet food, children’s toys – to those who need it.
Sunday afternoon a steady stream of cars pulled up to the curb in front of the 21 East Front St. business to donate various items from cosmetics to diapers, from blankets to winter jackets. The donors were met by a greeter on the sidewalk and volunteers quickly unloaded whatever they were bringing. The items were brought into the store, sorted by another crew and then packaged in black plastic bags for immediate distribution.
A sign on the business’ huge windows, affixed to the glass with blue tape, said “Hurricane Relief Donations Accepted Here.”
The front reception desk was crowded by people with laptops who were spreading the word about the effort through social media. Photos and video were being taken for a possible commercial to help garner donations and the rear of the space was where volunteers could eat and brainstorm. Donations were coming through the front and rear doors.
The Hurricane Sandy relief group was formed by Sounds to Go owner Mike Hernandez and Sarah McGovern, David Cruse, Melissa Dilger, Luke Ditella, Anthony Seatro and Ashley George.
Hernandez said the group saw the need and ran with the idea. They have partnered with Move for Hunger and have been assessing needs and then sending items directly to those who need items the most.
Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” visited the effort on Saturday to make a donation, Hernandez said.
Henandez said he and the other members of the group have gotten assistance from more than 50 volunteers – many of them teenagers – and have a list of another 50 or more who have offered to help sort, pack and deliver donations.
The donations have come from all over, including Philadelphia, and Hernandez has gotten calls, texts and other messages from people all over the country. “It’s overwhelming,” he said.
“One 2-year-old girl brought some kids toys,” he said with emotion. “There are things I have seen that I will never, ever forget. It’s heart wrenching.”
Hernandez said the organizers have designated point people to call contacts at various social service agencies in area towns to find out what is needed. After confirming the need, they gather a shipment and then a volunteer driver takes it to where it needs to be.
The group also is putting together an effort to get supplies for animals and is working to get sheltered animals adopted.
The organization is accepting all donations but is particularly looking for warm clothing – including hats, socks and gloves – food, water, children’s school supplies, children’s toys and pet supplies.
Hernandez, who shutdown his business several days ago, was making plans to contact FEMA himself to see if he can get some assistance with paying his rent. He said he had lost thousands of dollars of business.
Borough residents Pam Murphy had tears in her eyes Sunday as she dropped off her donation. “We found out about this because my husband was walking around town and saw the sign,” she said.
“This is so emotional … Look, these are such good kids,” she said as a teenage volunteer sprinted to the curb to assist as another car drove up. “When you come from New Jersey, you never think something like this will happen here.”
Donations can be dropped off at Sounds to Go, 21 East Front St. Hernandez said someone will be at his office 24 hours a day to accept items.