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.