ANDOVER — When Diane Dillon thinks of the Jersey Shore, memories of walking along the boardwalk, eating salt water taffy and drinking lemonade comes to mind.
“Looking at it now, it makes me want to cry,” said Dillon, who is originally from Philadelphia and moved to Andover 15 years ago.
“I felt paralyzed. I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know what to do.”
After seeing the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy, Dillon and several friends organized “Sending Sunshine 2012,” to collect non-perishable foods, clothing, gift cards from department and home stores.
Dillon wanted the group’s name to be a positive one, thus the Sending Sunshine theme.
“We want to give hope to the victims,” she said.
The Harrington Moving Company offered the group 4,000 square feet at Dundee Park on Railroad Avenue, where the group can store and sort donations. The Burlington and Wilmington school superintendents are rallying behind the cause.
“In 36 hours we have gotten several schools to help, businesses and volunteers from Burlington to Bradford. We even got an email that someone is shipping stuff from Florida,” said Dillon, a former senior vice president for the 99 Restaurant chain. She later worked in communications, marketing and branding.
“Just like a business, you have an idea, execute it and that’s how it happens.”
Dillon said she has been using social media including Facebook, Twitter and emails to spread the message.
So far, she has heard from a moving company who is willing to pick up donations in Boston, Swampscott and other locations and bring them to Andover; a ski shop in Pittsfield is sending 40 jackets; another company is giving 40 trash cans.
Donations will also be sent to the hard hit New York City boroughs of Queens and Staten Island.
“This is about individual people making a difference. The human spirit is incredible. We’re Americans and this is what we do. It’s a wonderful thing that people want to give,” she said.
“Imagine if you woke up one day and every thing you owned was gone. This is about bringing together a group of people, finding what they do best to help rebuild the human spirit.”
The American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts has sent 50 volunteers who will be in New York and New Jersey, said Kat Powers, communications director, said yesterday. They are working operating shelters, as first responders and driving trucks to deliver meals and supplies.
“As the need arises, we get calls and get them there as fast as we can,” Powers said. Each responder spends 14 days volunteering.
“This is not their job, this is their passion,” Powers said. “They are sleeping on cots to make sure everything is going well.”
This weekend, Cardinal Seán O’Malley has authorized churches in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston to take a collection to help victims.
O’Malley wants donations in support of the relief efforts to areas devastated by Sandy, particularly in Haiti, Cuba and areas in the Northeast United States. All monies collected will be distributed from the Archdiocese of Boston to the church agencies involved in these relief efforts.
How to help Archdiocese of Boston Parishioners should address their checks to their parish, with "Hurricane Sandy Relief" in the memo. The parish will then send one check payable to the Archdiocese of Boston, with "Hurricane Sandy Relief" in the memo. Checks can be sent to: Attn: Cashier, in care of, Hurricane Sandy Relief, Archdiocese of Boston Pastoral Center, 66 Brooks Drive, Braintree, Mass. 02184-3839 Sending Sunshine What: Sending Sunshine is collecting non-perishable food, Gatorade, baby food, cereal and canned good; batteries, flashlights, face masks, powered milk, aspirin, Clorox, peanut butter, power bars, diapers, baby wipes, blankets, hand sanitizer, towels, soap, shampoo, contractor bags and band-aids; gently worn or new clothing including coats, jeans, pajamas, work clothes, packaged underwear, socks and undershirts. When: Nov. 6-11, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Where: Drop items at Dundee Park in Andover, first building on the right, 3 Railroad Ave., or mail items to Sending Sunshine, in care of Diane Dillon, 7 Lenox Circle, Andover, MA 01810.