Have you pondered how to help our New York and New Jersey neighbors who've lost so much after Hurricane Sandy? There’s sending money, there’s hopping in the car to volunteer first-hand and then there’s donating very needed items right at Haddam-Killingworth’s Middle and High Schools.
Region 17 and locally-owned Go Mini's Storage have partnered to offer the community the opportunity to help. Portable storage units were placed at the schools last week and will remain there as long as there is a need.
“The goal is to fill the units with items that can assist and provide comfort for the people in these hard hit areas … It will be a long-long recovery period for many of these towns and their residents and any help we provide will make a difference,” stated RSD 17 Superintendent Howard Thiery in an email to parents.
Higganum residents Michael and Renee DiGiacomo are the angels behind the idea and leading the effort. The couple owns Go Mini’s, a national franchise, for the state of Connecticut.
Renee explains, “It was basically an idea my husband had. The idea was to help those in need after Hurricane Sandy. He is a soccer coach in town and put an email out to his team to see if they could collect donated items and we would drive them down in a Go Mini container and hand them out."
One of the parents of a team member is a Region 4 principal and immediately responded that he would do this in his region. So, Michael contacted RSD17's Superintendent Howard Thiery.
“Howard was more than willing to do it and get the ball rolling,” Renee said.
This weekend, the contents of containers will be delivered.
“Half of it will go to a school in The Rockaways. The other half will go to an elderly neighborhood in New Jersey which was completely flooded by a levee which overflowed,” she said.
Renee connects with many of her sorority sisters from college who have been affected and they have been able to get her in touch with some of the neighborhoods.
The original plan was to deliver to Staten Island. “They had a container truck where you could drop off but that’s full of donations,” she said and added, “We figured it would be best to meet up with regular folks in a neighborhood and donate the items that way.”
She’s been in touch with the Salvation Army headquarters in Connecticut. “They are getting donations as well but they’re going to New York and New Jersey. Connecticut does not have as much of a need for it.”
“Originally what we thought was the Connecticut shoreline but, in contacting Salvation Army and FEMA, it’s really New York and New Jersey which are the hardest hit and most devastated areas.”
The DiGiacomos could easily drop the donations at the Salvation Army which will disperse them, “but we thought it would be a great experience for our kids and to take pictures to send back to the school of actually being in a neighborhood which was hit hard.”
The Digiacomos have three children at Haddam-Killingworth Middle School.
Renee’s sister lives in New Jersey and has been able to connect the Digiacomos with quite a few communities. Renee is working on getting a list of items each community needs.
Those in the elderly community where they will soon be delivering really have nothing. “No pots and pans, no nail clippers – nothing. Their whole houses have to be gutted, sheetrock has to be wiped out, cement has to be bleached and cleaned.”
The list of needed items which follows came off of support groups on Facebook for Staten Island, The Rockaways and New Jersey.
“They’ve got an awful lot of cleanup. They need new socks, new underwear, new clothing, new blankets, bleach, brooms, mops, gloves, trash bags, etc. We’re trying to get new stuff,” said Renee.
As long as the community continues to fill the containers, the units will remain.
“We’ll go back as many times as we need to,” she said.
She adds, “We donate containers all the time for different charities. It’s part of being a business owner – being able to give back to the community. We’re more than happy to do it as long as the need is there.”
Superintendent Howard Thiery stated, "I am very grateful to Go Mini Storage and the DiGiacomos for providing the opportunity for the school system and the community to contribute support for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. They did all the organization and donated all the labor associated with this effort. We are very fortunate to live in a community that is such generosity and compassion for people in such genuine need."
The unit at the High School is behind the HK Recreation Department and can be seen from Little City Road. At the Middle School, the unit is located in the first parking lot on the right near the school entrance. There is a banner indicating “Sandy Relief”.
Items needed for Hurricane Sandy victims:
Sweaters (good shape and clean)
Sweatshirts (good shape and clean)
Pants (good shape and clean)
Baby/Infant supplies (diapers, wipes, formula)
Toiletries (shampoo, soap, toothpaste/tooth brush)
Towels (good shape and clean)