By FELICIA KRIEG
---- — KEESEVILLE — A second truck with donated supplies from the North Country will soon make its way to Highlands, N.J., to help hurricane victims.
“Their downtown was completely devastated by Hurricane Sandy,” said Tonia Finnegan of Keeseville, who is collecting donations with Dean Martin, also of Keeseville
It all started a few days after the storm, when Jennifer Smith Compagni, a high-school classmate of Finnegan and Martin at AuSable Valley Central School, sent out a plea for help via her Facebook page.
Martin saw the post and immediately began thinking of ways he could assist in the effort. He quickly enlisted the help of Finnegan.
Initially, one of the most needed items was ice. Food was spoiling left and right because of the power outages.
“Within 72 hours, we filled a truck with ice, clothes, blankets, candles, all sorts of stuff and sent down truck number one, and now we’re working on truck number two,” Finnegan said.
The first truck, driven by volunteer Cliff Sterling, arrived in Highlands at 3 a.m. Nov. 7.
“It must have been a beautiful town,” Martin said. But, “when the sun came up, you could see the devastation,” he said, referencing the many homes and businesses in the small town that were reduced to rubble by the storm.
But the donations gave the people of Highlands hope.
After they got things ready for pickup, a line formed, and within an hour, the 7,000 pounds of ice that Sterling and Martin had brought was gone, Martin said.
“They couldn’t express their thanks and gratitude enough,” Martin said.
More than a month after the the hurricane, Highlands has started to rebuild, Finnegan said, but they are in desperate need of supplies. This time around, the need is different. Instead of emergency supplies such as candles, blankets and clothes, items like household appliances and tools are needed to help with the rebuilding process, Finnegan said.
More than $1,200 in donations have already been collected from local residents and businesses so far for the second trip, as well as two dryers, windows, doors and mattresses.
Unless someone donates use of a truck to transport the items, the money will go toward the cost of renting a U-haul and paying for fuel, Finnegan said.
The second truck will start the drive south to New Jersey on Dec. 19. Martin and Finnegan will continue to collect donations until then.
Compagni, who works with the Red Cross Executive Council in her county, has helped organize the distribution of the donations. Highlands residents can write what they need on a posted community list so they can be more easily matched with an appropriate donation, Martin said.
Small and large appliances are needed, including toasters, blenders, coffee makers, washers and dryers, Martin said. And the list goes on: building supplies, brooms, dustpans, face masks, contractor garbage bags, plastic storage bins, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, fabric softener, dish detergent, Lysol disinfectant, plastic snow shovels, metal rakes, sponge mops, space heaters and new twin- and queen-sized mattresses and box springs.
“If everyone in the county could just give one thing,” Martin said, “well, it adds up.”
The two seemed determined as they stood in the basement of Keeseville Elks Lodge 2072, where they are storing the donations.
“Our goal is to fill this truck,” Finnegan said.
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HOW TO HELP
Donations will be collected from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 15, at Keeseville Elks Lodge 2072.
Items may also be dropped off at the North Country Club Restaurant in Keeseville.
For more information, call Tonia Finnegan at 569-7202 or Dean Martin at 578-7027.