TOMS RIVER – A group of entities – including the township, school district, police, and the People’s Pantry – have got together to “adopt” the town of Beaumont, Texas, which was battered by Hurricane Harvey.
Beaumont was chosen, officials said, because the population is similar to Toms River. Also, they were one of the hardest hit locations.
The “Shore2Help” donation drive will be collecting gift cards for families in that town. They are only collecting gift cards for certain stores that are local to Beaumont: Walmart, Target, Lowe’s Home Improvement and Home Depot. They ask that the amount of the card should be written on it. They will be accepted at the following locations:
- Toms River Town Hall, 33 Washington Street (in the lobby)
- Toms River Police Department, 255 Oak Avenue
- Toms River Schools, 1144 Hooper Avenue (teachers will be collecting gift cards from students/parents)
- The People’s Pantry, 1769 Hooper Avenue
Toms River Superintendent David Healy said he talked to Beaumont Independent School District Superintendent John Frossard. They created a support plan, and will have Toms River kids send cards and drawings. Frossard talked about power outages, damage to homes, and people with no food, clothes, or clean water. They have 19,000 students, comparable to Toms River’s almost 16,000.
There is one significant difference, though. In Beaumont, 91 percent of the student population qualify for free or reduced lunches. That figure in Toms River schools is 29 percent.
“That’s really indicative of how impoverished that community is,” he said. That means that they will have a harder time recuperating. Residents in Toms River might have more support from friends and family.
The storm has changed everything, according to Nakisha Burns, director of community and media relations for Beaumont schools. “Until you’re in it,” Burns said in a press release, “it’s impossible to explain.”
Extreme flooding impacted several of Beaumont’s 29 schools, and many students were moved to other schools in the meantime.
Each of the other Toms River officials spoke with their Beaumont counterpart. Mayor Thomas Kelaher spoke with Beaumont Mayor Becky Ames. She reported that there are still many people struggling and that mountains of debris remain.
“As a community, we know all too well the devastation a hurricane can bring long after the storm has passed,” Kelaher said in a press release. “Toms River is an extremely generous community when asked to help others in need. No amount is too small. Let’s show Beaumont, Texas that we stand with them as they begin the long road to recovery.”
Police Chief Mitch Little recalled how Toms River was the recipient of such aid after Superstorm Sandy and how it is a great opportunity to pay it forward.
The Toms River Police Department has been in contact with the Beaumont Police Department and they are compiling a list of their department’s families who have been directly affected by Hurricane Harvey, he said.
“We will be personalizing gifts for the families in effort to bring smiles to their faces and hope to them in their time of need,” he said.
Patricia Donaghue, executive director of The People’s Pantry, said she was heartbroken to learn of the devastation in Texas and helped choose Beaumont for the donation drive.
“Toms River residents who went through Superstorm Sandy saw what was happening in Texas with Hurricane Harvey and they took it personally. Our community kept asking the same question: How can we help? And that is what we intend to do,” she said.