STORY: Community Effort in Full Force at Red Cross Jersey City Packing Warehouse

Sandy - Jersey City preparing bulk distribution supplies

By: Wesley Lind

As another truck filled with Red Cross supply kits rolls away from a volunteer assembly line, a sea of over 250 volunteers lets loose a hearty and well-deserved “hurrah!” They are a collection of Red Cross volunteers, spontaneous community volunteers, and Red Cross partner agency volunteers who have come together to help victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Among those cheering is Chris Dapolito, a native of White Plains, NY and head football coach at local Pace University. Like so many others, Superstorm Sandy affected his friends and family, many of whom were still living on the Jersey coast where he grew up.

“Where I live we had mass power outages, but my family and friends had plenty of their homes damaged or destroyed,” Chris says. I saw a social media post calling for volunteers to help load Red Cross supply kits, said ‘we’re in. I called the players and got them down here to unload boxes and pack trucks.”

The supply  kits, which included items like hand warmers, gloves, flashlights, and blankets, were being loaded onto trucks to be distributed out to storm-affected neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey. Several volunteer assembly lines ran like clockwork and at peak efficiency, 300 supply kits were being created and loaded every five minutes. By the time all is said and done, tens of thousands of the kits will have been assembled and loaded at the Jersey City warehouse for volunteer truck drivers that included local Teamsters to deliver their precious cargo.

Little did he know that he’d fall into a leadership role at the warehouse directing packing and truck traffic. Chris and his players are a prime example of a community coming together in face of a massive tragedy.

“Coming into this operation , I’ve been so impressed with the organization and the Red Cross” Chris says. “This whole thing has been so smooth. I’m really proud of my team because service is part of being an American and this storm has been so horrible that we need everyone to get through it.”

The hard work and dedication of all the volunteers wasn’t lost on Laura Hevesi, one of the Red Crossers in charge of the massive packing and loading operation. “The effort of Chris’s team and all the volunteers has just been beyond expectations,” Laura says. “The Red Cross is fortunate to have volunteers to step up and do what needs to be done.”

Among the 35 football players who answered Chris’s call for help on both Friday evening and Saturday was Diego Dilone, a freshman running back and resident of Long Island. Sandy left Diego’s hometown without power for nearly 10 days along with other damage. For him, it was a no brainer to get involved in the Red Cross effort at the warehouse.

“When I first came to the warehouse, I just got this great feeling of inspiration,” Diego says. “I’ve done everything from be a box cutter to truck loader to working a lift – whatever they needed me to do.”

“This has been a real learning experience,” Diego says. “When times get tough, we come together and become one to help the less fortunate. You can get that feeling from anything else.”

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