Story: Couple spent 38th Wedding Anniversary in Red Cross Shelter

Written by: Jane Bowden

The Dinunzio family feared for their lives when the eye of super storm Sandy brought a tidal surge to their Seaside Heights home.

Speaking from the Red Cross run shelter in the Junior Senior High School in Tuckerton, Manny Dinunzio said it was a huge relief to feel warm and safe again.

Things started to go wrong when they decided to remain in their home during the storm. On the night of Monday November 29, Jan Dinunzio glanced out of a front window of the family home into the dark street outside and noticed water. Within a few minutes the water, swirling with large pieces of debris, had surrounded the house and inundated the backyard. It continued to rise rapidly.

With the help of their 29-year-old son, Frankie, they decided to evacuate to an apartment at the rear of their property, which was built on a higher level. They had to use a picnic table as a bridge to cross the yard but when the water reached chest height, it started floating away.

They could only watch and worry, once they and their 5 dogs and 2 cats had reached the safer place, not knowing how deep the water would eventually get. After what seemed like a long time, it started to subside, but their ordeal was far from over. Both of their cars had been badly damaged by water. So they were stranded and because a number of power lines had been damaged and there was a smell of gas, they thought it safer to stay and wait for help to come.

Manny Dinunzio described the next two nights with no power or heat, , darkness at night, wet clothes, mud and sand everywhere, no communication and a diminishing stock of edible food, as nothing short of a nightmare.

When the police came knocking at their door and offered transport to the Shelter, they did not hesitate to accept.

Manny told Red Cross Volunteer Jane Bowden from Port St John in Brevard Florida that the reception they got at the Shelter had been warm and welcoming and that he and his family had been overwhelmed with the generosity they had been shown. He said “there is no way I can express my gratitude to the Red Cross, it is the best thing I have ever seen and one of the best organizations I have ever come across in my whole life.”

Manny and Jan Dinunzio, both in their early 60’s have been warned by Officials that it may be weeks or maybe even months before they can move back into their home. They fear they have lost everything including the income they normally make over the summer season from renting rooms.

They had been so traumatized by what had happened, that they had completely forgotten about their 38th wedding anniversary. The Kitchen staff led by Red Crosser, Carol-Lee Gugliuzzo from the Jersey Coast Chapter, rallied around and created a candle lit dinner for two in the cafeteria, along with specially iced cup cakes, a candle, cloth napkins and tablecloth and a home made card. They were applauded by nearly 100 other Shelter residents.

The American Red Cross continues to increase its enormous relief operation, to provide food, shelter, supplies and comfort to more and more people affected by Superstorm Sandy every day. 5000 Red cross workers, from all over the country, are supporting shelters, providing food and water at fixed and mobile sites and the entire Red Cross Fleet of 320 response vehicles are supporting shelters and distributing meals, water, snacks and relief supplies. Last Night (11/4) 4136 people stayed in 61 Red Cross shelters across 7 States. Working in partnership with The Southern Baptist Convention, 8 Field Kitchens have been set up, capable of producing many thousands of hot meals a day. And the organization is mobilizing 80,000 blankets in preparation for cold temperatures forecast for much of the mid-Atlantic later this week.

This response is thought to be the biggest Red Cross response in the US in the past five years. If you want to help, the best way is to donate so we can target that help to where it is needed most. You can make a donation by going to http://www.redcross.org, dialing 1-800-REDCROSS or texting the work REDCROSS to 90999 to make an instant $10 donation.

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