By Alex Lippa
---- — ATKINSON — When Pam Burke of Atkinson decided she was going to fill a 53-foot tractor trailer with items for Hurricane Sandy victims, she knew she had big aspirations.
After just a few weeks, she has collected enough items to fill half the tractor trailer through Shoeboxes from Santa.
The idea is to offer a little holiday cheer by filling shoeboxes with items designed to brighten a particular person’s holiday.
A puzzle fan might get a small jigsaw puzzle, a book of crossword puzzles, some bright pencils and a card game. A sports fan might receive a shoebox with trading cards, a team magnet, a baseball or a cap. A mother might appreciate some tea, a paperback novel, some lotion and a pair of slipper socks.
Burke is asking people to use their imaginations and fill a shoebox or two for New Jersey storm victims. While she’s pleased with the response so far, she won’t be completely satisfied unless she fills the truck.
“I’m scared I won’t fill it,” Burke said yesterday. “People are expecting to see this truck full of shoeboxes.”
The shoeboxes, along with toys, clothes and food, is destined for Long Beach Island, N.J.
“If (all the people I’ve talked to) have collected as much as they’re saying, then I think we’ve filled about half the truck,” Burke said. “I couldn’t fathom I would have gotten this far. Up until two weeks ago, it was just me.”
A relative newcomer, Burke said she didn’t know many people when she started out. That has changed.
She made several calls to people in the region, asking for help.
The Rev. Paul Dionne of Atkinson Congregational Church was one of the first to respond.
“I spend every summer down on the Jersey Shore in Long Beach Island,” Dionne said. “It hit a nerve for me as I’ve had some special times down there.”
He encouraged church members to donate. His own family donated two shoeboxes. The knitting ministry at the church has sewn quilts and knit caps. Other parishioners have donated clothing and food.
“The help they have given has been amazing,” Burke said. “They have really just helped me tenfold.”
But not every effort has been so successful.
“It’s a little disappointing,” said Ricky Cash, a manager at Beantowne Coffeehouse and Cafe. “We really thought people would want to donate.”
Beantowne is one of several local businesses serving as collection points.
“People are starting to focus more on the Christmas season,” Burke said. “Not as much attention is being paid to the victims in New Jersey anymore.”
This weekend, Burke will be shopping with about $700 worth of gift cards from Toys “R” Us, donated by individuals.
She’s trying to fill the big truck, which will arrive at the Atkinson Community Center a week from today. Louis P. Cote Inc. of Goffstown is donating use of the truck, a driver and fuel.
On Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 15 and 16, people can drop off donations and help fill the truck.
“I just want the victims to feel like they will be getting a holiday, even if it’s for just 20 minutes,” Burke said. “I just want to take their mind away from (Hurricane Sandy).”
Burke isn’t just going to stop once all the items are delivered. She will immediately start collecting more items for a second truck, filled with winter clothing and nonperishable food items to be delivered in the spring.
How to help What's needed? Shoeboxes filled with small, themed items, decorated, but not sealed; gift cards, new toys, warm coats, gloves, hats, scarves, mittens, nonperishable food. Where? Atkinson Congregational Church, 101 Main St., Atkinson; Northstar Music, 37 Plaistow Road, No. 12, Plaistow; Lobster Q, 416 Emerson Ave., Hampstead; BeanTowne Coffeehouse and Cafe, 201 Route 111, Hampstead. When? On Dec. 15, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Dec. 16, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., donations may be delivered to the Atkinson Community Center, 4 Main St., Atkinson. The truck leaves Dec. 17. For more information: Email Burkeysusc@yahoo.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Check Facebook for updates and more information at facebook.com/ShoeBoxesFromSanta.