More than 80 garbage bags pile high at a dimly-lit upstairs dining room of Mac Murphy’s in Ridgewood. Three bins of shoes peak out and diaper bags struggle under the weight of baby shoes.
Some bags are labeled. Others are still being sorted through. Bartenders hustle up the wooden stairs. More bags arrive. The pile grows and space is quickly running out.
“I never expected this kind of response,” Kayleigh Smith says.
She's been using her parents booming bar biz as a makeshift distribution center. “It’s so overwhelming,” she smiles, pointing to the new delivery. “It’s insane, the generosity from everyone. I thought maybe I’d get 20 bags.”
A few items are going to a Mac Murphy’s bartender whose Queens, NY family lost much in the storm. “Her family is our family,” Smith says.
Most of the items, however, are bound for Normandy Beach and Jersey Shore communities nearby, areas demolished by extreme winds and flooding.
“My friend Pete, he lost his house,” a distraught Kayleigh Smith says.
The pictures tell the whole story (scroll through the gallery above). Homes washed away as the bay and ocean meet. Others charred by a large gas fire. Highways covered by layers of sand. Bridges collapsed into the sea. Huddled families whisked to safety by state police on boats.
"It's a very grim situation," says Pete Mercatani. "The scene down here at the beach, people have lost everything."
The Normandy Beach resident started a relief program down the shore. But since few in the region even have anything less to give, he’s having trouble getting donations locally.
“I figured the least I could do was start something up here,” Smith says. "We didn’t lose as much, we really just lost power.”
Mercatani is living in a neighbor’s house right now. It’s doubling as a distribution center for a myriad of essential goods. Tens of thousands are displaced along the beaches. Others who stayed live in conditions never seen before in the area.
“I bring everything to him and all the fire companies from Seaside to Point Pleasant disperse it to their respective communities,” Smith says. “Pete will also bring items to the shelter himself.”
There is still a great need.
Pillows, blankets, winter jackets are on the top of the list, followed by sweatpants and shirts, jeans and baby clothes.
Canned goods, water bottles, batteries and flashlights are in high demand.
“It’s getting so cold out,” Smith says. “People need the blankets, they need the coats. It’s serious…the other thing we really need is pet food. So many pets were abandoned and taken in to shelters or peoples' homes.”
Penske donated a 16-foot truck for Smith and her boyfriend, Kyle Flaherty, to use indefinitely for the journey. They’ll be driving to Spring Lake Heights either Monday or Tuesday. Normandy Beach remains impassable.
More drop-off locations have been set up as a result of the incredible response to her storm drive. Red Mango, LeMi, Araya Rebirth, Crumbs, Real Living Gateway Realtors on Broad Street are places people can donate.
Mac Murphy’s will be taking all items from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The other participating businesses will accept donations during their respective business hours.
It's desperately needed, Mercatani told Patch.
“We have literally lost everything. Houses are gone, and people left with the clothes on their back because they were not anticipating their house not being there after the storm.”
Make sure to 'Like' the hurricane drive's Facebok page as well.