By Doug Ireland email@example.com
---- — When Neil DeLuca of Derry heard about the devastation Hurricane Sandy caused in New Jersey and New York, he just knew he had to do something to help.
DeLuca, 53, is teaming up with friend Glynis Citarelli of Amherst and businesses across the state, including the Market Basket supermarket chain, to aid storm victims through Operation New Hampshire Cares.
Cub Scouts in Salem are helping as well, making blankets to send to the victims, he said.
At 5 a.m. Saturday, DeLuca and a small group of volunteers will head to New Jersey, along with a tractor-trailer packed with food, clothing and toiletries for Sandy victims. Donations for the trip are being collected through this afternoon.
They will deliver the food and other items to Your Grandmother’s Cupboard, a nonprofit organization in Toms River that will distribute the donations, DeLuca said.
“Food pantries down there are in dire straits,” he said. “They are running out of food. The food supply has just been depleted.”
The storm Oct. 29 killed 85 people and destroyed homes in numerous states. Tens of thousands of New York and New Jersey residents still remain in the dark, waiting for electricity to be restored.
Shortly after Sandy struck, DeLuca said he became caught up in the television news coverage one night before going to bed.
“The next day, I woke up with the big desire to do something,” he said.
Citarelli, who has relatives in New Jersey, decided to pitch in as well.
“We said, ‘Let’s help our families and friends down there,’” DeLuca said.
They launched a social media campaign that’s prompted people across New Hampshire to donate, receiving about 200 responses to help in less than 10 days.
Approximately a dozen businesses and 11 Market Basket stores, including locations in Salem and Londonderry, offered to serve as drop-off sites. Market Basket is collecting donations until noon today and the other businesses are accepting them until 3 p.m. today.
McDevitt Trucks of Manchester is lending the tractor-trailer and two drivers for the trip to New Jersey, DeLuca said. He said they expect to visit Staten Island, N.Y., in mid-December to bring any other donations collected.
Polartec of Lawrence and Cub Scout Pack 160 in Salem are helping out as well.
Polartec donated material for blankets the Scouts are making, Deluca said. No one from Polartec or Pack 160 could be reached for comment yesterday.
“It is incredible,” DeLuca said of the volunteer effort.
Local businesspeople said they are to happy to join the effort.
Bea Shay, owner of Oasis Salon By Bea at 18 E. Broadway in Derry, said she heard about the Operation New Hampshire Cares through Facebook. Shay said she put collection boxes in her shop and her customers have returned with donations.
“I’ve had clients bring in coats, blankets and other things,” she said.
Although Sandy caused some damage in Southern New Hampshire, knocking out power to thousands, Shay said local residents are fortunate. She’s been following the media coverage.
“We are lucky, we didn’t get hit (bad),” she said. “When you see it on TV, it’s devastating.”
Representatives for Market Basket said the supermarket chain is glad to help, but is just serving as a collection point. Credit goes to the individual volunteers, they said. The local Market Basket stores are at 265 S. Broadway in Salem and Garden Lane in Londonderry.
Other local drop-off locations include Beantowne Coffee on Route 111 in Hampstead and EFX/Fitness Revolution at 361 S. Broadway in Salem.
Operation New Hampshire Cares is seeking nonperishable food such as canned goods and pastas, sauce, canned tuna and easy-to-make meals. Blankets, pillows, toiletries and warm clothing are also needed, especially jackets, coats, boots, hats, gloves and mittens.
For more information about Operation New Hampshire Cares and where to donate, visit facebook.com/OperationsNHCares.