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Orange 9-year-old spurs superstorm food drive

Enlists family, friends in worthy cause

Rachael Coolidge, Walmart community coordinator Marcia Perry, Lindsey Coolidge, Hannah Morton and mother Carrie Fancy collect food, supplies, and cash donations to send to hurricane Sandy victims in Ocean City, New Jersey, at the Orange Walmart Saturday.

Rachael Coolidge, Walmart community coordinator Marcia Perry, Lindsey Coolidge, Hannah Morton and mother Carrie Fancy collect food, supplies, and cash donations to send to hurricane Sandy victims in Ocean City, New Jersey, at the Orange Walmart Saturday.

ORANGE — They say graphic images on TV can affect young children, and that’s just what happened to a local girl.

But the shocking sight 9-year-old Hannah Morton saw on the evening news had a positive effect.

“I saw people eating out of dumpsters on the news,” she said. “My mom looked at me and said I was starting to cry.”

When she saw the conditions Hurricane Sandy victims were living in, Hannah knew she just had to help.

She decided to start a food drive. So, on Saturday and Sunday, Hannah, her mom, Carrie Fancy and friends set up a table at the Orange Walmart, and asked holiday shoppers to pitch in.

Hannah, her mom, and friends Rachael Coolidge and daughter Lindsey, 14, all left their Athol homes and bundled up against the weather to collect food from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., as a few snowflakes fell on a brisk Saturday.

“On a normal Saturday, I’d probably just be sitting at home with my dad, having a fire in the fireplace,” she said. She didn’t mind giving up her comfort to help those who don’t have homes left to go to.

“What’s us sitting in the cold for eight hours, when some people have been outside for weeks?” asked her mom.

“I wanted to make a difference,” said Hannah.

Though many have stepped up to help the residents of New York and New Jersey affected by the superstorm, not everybody is pitching in.

“It kills me when people say ‘Thank God it wasn’t us,’ but don’t talk about what they can do to help,” said Lindsey Coolidge. She was glad to see Hannah take the initiative to start the food drive.

Though neither of the girls know anyone in the affected area, they’re both Girl Scouts, and when they heard about seven Girl Scout troops displaced by the storm, their hearts went out to them.

While Hannah and her mother handle the food drive, local business owner Paul Anderson will do the truck driving. He and his wife own Trail Head outdoor outfitters in downtown Orange, and have made one trip to Ocean City, N.J. to bring supplies already, and will take the food the kids collected as well.

He said that, at first glance, the buildings in Ocean City seemed just fine.

“It’s a different kind of damage,” he said. Though the houses and buildings still stand, six feet of water washed over much of Ocean City, causing massive flood damage.

“We went into a church, and the walls were stripped to the studs from here down,” he said, holding his hand about four feet high.

Anderson had originally looked into providing aid to New York City, but it was too chaotic in the first days. So, he did some digging, and found the Ocean City, New Jersey Cleanup and Recovery Project, a collaboration of church and community groups.

He said the group has seen help from all over.

“Last time we were there, a truck from Georgia was unloading,” he said.

For that first trip, Anderson took two pickups and a van, and teamed with People’s Bakery, which loaded two minivans with 500 fresh loaves of bread.

“Food is what they need most right now,” he said.

Trail Head is collecting non-perishable foods, toiletries, and cleaning supplies for the trip. The earliest Anderson said he’ll head out is Thursday, weather permitting.

Besides supplies, Anderson said he and his wife have had people offer gas money.

“I tell them, ‘No thanks. The driving and gas is our way of helping out,’” he said.

The couple plans to make the 16-hour round-trip in a single day, and be home to open their store the next morning.

Even in today’s rocky economy, Anderson said his community is always thinking of others.

“Here in Orange, we give when we can, and we give when we can’t, too,” he said.

If you would like to donate to Ocean City, New Jersey CARE, visit www.facebook.com/ocnjcare.

David Rainville can be reached at:
drainville@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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