Donations can be dropped off at the following Hunt Real Estate offices:
Camillus, 3208 West Genesee St., Syracuse; 488-2926
Cazenovia, 95 Albany St., Cazenovia; 655-8300
Chittenango, 119 Genesee St., Chittenango; 687-6109
Cicero, 7913 Route 11, Cicero; 699-3200
DeWitt, 6849 E. Genesee St., Fayetteville; 446-4681
Liverpool, 8196 Oswego Road, Liverpool; 622-5757
Manlius, 100 E. Seneca St., Manlius; 682-7197
Oneida, 730 Lenox Ave., Oneida; 363-5533
The images of the devastated Jersey Shore are haunting, particularly for those with a lifetime of memories swept away by Hurricane Sandy. Among those are Jim Siciliano and his daughter Gabby, who moved to Manlius from Ocean Township, N.J., 12 years ago, when Gabby was in fifth grade.
“It’s pretty much Ground Zero,” Jim said. “All of our childhood memories are gone. The beach, the boardwalk, a lot of homes, everything’s gone. We’ve got five family members staying with us right now because they’ve got now power or water. It’s horrible.”
Gabby said the damage to her childhood home was heartbreaking.
“My heart sank as I was over at my father’s house for dinner watching the Red Cross Benefit and seeing pictures flash on the screen of the beaches that I once called home, those very beaches that my family still live on and near,” she said. “Those very beaches [have] ceased to exist… The pictures don’t even due justice to the areas affected. There are still millions of people without electricity, heat or even hot water. Some places don’t have drinking water at all.”
So the Sicilianos, including Jim’s wife, Tracey, also a New Jersey native, have decided to do something to help. They’re conducting a food and supply drive for Sandy’s victims in Monmouth County, where Ocean Township and many other hard-hit areas along the shore are located. Both Jim and Tracey work for Hunt Real Estate, and Hunt’s offices have agreed to act as drop-off locations for the donations. For a list of locations, see the sidebar.
“I contacted my broker — I work out of the Manlius office — and asked if I could use the offices as a drop-off point, and she got back to me and said, ‘Absolutely,’” Jim said. “So I sent out the letter [Friday] and forwarded to all Hunt agents.”
The Sicilianos are looking for the following: blankets, socks, batteries, non-perishable foods, diapers, baby wipes, hygiene supplies, hand sanitizer, handheld can openers, cases of water — “anything that would be good for people without power,” Jim said. In addition, they’re also accepting pet supplies for the many pets who’ve been displaced.
The one thing they don’t want is cash.
“If you want to give cash, donate it to the Salvation Army,” Jim said. “They have shelters down there.”
To donate to the Salvation Army, visit donate.salvationarmyusa.org/disaster. You can also donate cash to the Red Cross at redcross.org.
Jim said he was surprised by how big the initiative has gotten since he started it last week.
“People have really jumped on board,” he said. “It’s getting bigger and bigger.”
He thinks that’s partly due to the efforts of his daughter.
“My daughter, who is excellent with this social networking thing, did a group invite through Facebook and spread the word,” Jim said. “She saw me while she was growing up getting involved and helping people. The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.”
“We take our daily things for granted,” Gabby said. “I just think it’s important to be part of change.”
Jim had initially planned one trip to Monmouth County, for Sunday, Nov. 11. However, considering the proximity of Thanksgiving, and given the response the drive has gotten so far — donations are coming in from as far away as California — he’s decided to add a second trip for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
“I’m just going to rent a big truck and take it all down,” he said.
Jim is better prepared than many for the conditions; he worked as a firefighter in Monmouth County for eight years, and before he joined Hunt Real Estate, he worked in disaster recovery.
“I worked with municipal agencies to help them recover from major storms,” he said. “After Katrina, I worked with 38 municipalities, including New Orleans, in the recovery effort, rebuilding infrastructure and helping them recoup money from the federal government.”
Even having that background, Jim said he feared the havoc wrought by Sandy was worse.
“I worked on the Katrina recovery. As far as the amount of people affected and the infrastructure damage, it’s worse,” he said. “People actually listened and evacuated, so you don’t have thousands of bodies. But they’re still going to be finding people for a long time. It’s not pretty.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.