Local businessman Tom Biggs spent the first few days in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy pumping down overfilled swimming pools and a friend's flooded basement in Dewey Beach, but when he sat down to watch the Friday evening news he realized that his work week wasn't over.
After seeing the images of devastated Staten Island, N.Y. and its residents, Biggs initiated a relief drive at The Villages of Herring Creek clubhouse Nov. 3. Biggs and his wife Jen contacted a few close friends and after a couple of text messages, emails and Facebook posts, the plan was in action. The next morning Biggs had a difficult time renting trucks as Jen greeted the first few contributors at the clubhouse. By 10 a.m. Biggs had secured two box trucks and the parking lot was starting to pile up with donated clothes, water, food, batteries, toiletries, a generator. and other necessities.
The word spread throughout the day as local news sources, businesses and residents relayed the message of the relief drive. The Biggs and several volunteers collected items beyond the 5 p.m. deadline, and were able to fill five box trucks with supplies. Saturday afternoon the group was being asked if they would collect items Sunday because people wanted to give more, but the group new that they had to get what they had to New York as soon as possible. Biggs and his crew were amazed by the local support and their reception in New York.
Jack Vogt put Biggs in contact with Staten Island Church at the Gateway Pastor Timothy Mercaldo. Mercaldo's church had just begun networking with churches from the other side of the island that had suffered the worst damage from the storm. The Church at the Gateway served as the collection site and the National Guard distributed the items across the island by priority of need.
The one generator the Sussex County group was able to deliver was immediately taken with a Humvee full of goods to a church that was acting as a shelter and did not have power.
After unloading the supplies the group returned home to questions of whether they planned to do it again. Fortunately, other groups in the community had followed Biggs' lead and were planning their own relief efforts. Through their experience Biggs' group recommended that other groups collect items such as heavy duty trash bags, heavy duty extension cords, dust mask, empty fuel cans and generators when possible. The need for food, water and clothing seemed to be stable and continued to pour into the church, but not many people were thinking about the energy and cleaning supplies.
The Lewes Fire Hall is a collection point through Friday, Nov. 9. that will be delivered to New Jersey over the weekend.