North Bergen resident Victoria Ryan was born and raised in the town of Brick in Ocean County – one of the communities heavily impacted by Hurricane Sandy. In the storm’s aftermath, she wanted to do something to help, so she began collecting donations. After she created a Facebook page, what began as a small operation soon became bigger than she could have imagined. The donations began pouring in, and soon Ryan had a team of volunteers.
The term Jersey Strong has become synonymous with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and with people coming together to help those affected by the storm. But “strong” doesn’t always mean “stoical.” Ryan began to cry as she talked about many of her friends and their families who lost their homes.
Ryan reached out to Pennsylvania residents to lend their support and the donations soon followed. From there she wrote a small status update on Facebook, which is how “Brick By Brick And Beyond” was born.
Her team of volunteers includes former and current North Bergen residents like Jo Ann Finger, Commissioner Allen Pascual and his wife Paula, Pascual’s sister Jody Capanear, and others. Some volunteers even came from other states to offer their support.
“We all enjoy the Jersey Shore and really wanted to do something to help the residents who were displaced and also to help in rebuilding a place that brought us so much happiness,” said Paula Pascual.
Ryan asked for support from residents and businesses throughout New Jersey.
“I think anyone would do what I’m doing and so many have,” said Ryan.
The donations consisted of non-perishable foods, new and used clothing, sleeping bags, car seats, children’s toys, baby food and formula, strollers, a crib and school supplies such as backpacks. As Ryan’s cause became known, the donations grew in abundance. A vice principal from North Bergen High School, who asked to remain anonymous, joined with her daughter to donate a variety of things needed. The donations were stored in Finger’s North Bergen garage since her home is still up for sale.
“The way that all communities have pulled together to help so many people, it’s awe inspiring.” – Victoria Ryan
“The more we started asking around, the more we found out that people really wanted to get involved and help out,” said Finger.
“The way that all communities have pulled together to help so many people, it’s awe inspiring,” said Ryan. “I feel very blessed to be a part of [this community].”
With the funds collected, the group went to BJ’s and Walmart in North Bergen for school supplies.
Once donations were collected, the next task was how to transport all the collected items.
“We got a huge response [for donations] that we knew our mini vans weren’t going to cut it,” said Paula.
After being contacted by Finger, North Bergen company Atlas Industries donated a truck and driver. Atlas owner Mike Dell’Aquila said that he was more than happy to help. The Atlas truck made pickups at multiple donation sites prior to going down the shore.
“It’s just human nature to help people out when they’re down,” said Dell’Aquila. “We didn’t do it for any type of recognition; we’re just trying to help out. We want to continue to help.”
Finger thanked Atlas for all their help and said they couldn’t have done it without them.
With the assistance of Atlas, the team of volunteers sent donations to FEMA at Toms River’s Church of the Visitation and Drum Point Elementary School in Brick on Sunday, Nov. 11. The team did not give up despite being turned away by several agencies such as the Red Cross, who were overwhelmed with donations.
Ryan and Paula met at the North Bergen Community Pool. Ryan thanked her friend for all her help and for recruiting volunteers to raise donations, and Paula thanked Victoria.
“She jumped in all by herself and ran with it,” said Paula.
Paula donated $30 to the Red Cross but didn’t feel like it was enough. She joined Ryan’s cause after viewing a post on Facebook.
“She gave me the opportunity to really make a difference,” said Paula.
Ryan also believes that Facebook was a great facilitator to expand the once small effort.
“If it wasn’t for Facebook, none of this would have ever happened,” said Ryan. “[It’s] a people helping people site.”
Ryan was pleased to know the donations would go to those who need them.
“It’s great to know that it’s going to go to the families that lost everything,” said Ryan.
Dell’Aquila also thanked the group of ladies that make up “Brick By Brick And Beyond.”
“They all were great and really put their hearts into it,” said Dell’Aquila. “They spent the entire day getting [donations] into the hands of people that needed it.”
The group is still taking donations and will make another trip soon.
To help or for more information visit www.facebook.com/pages/Brick-by-Brick-and-Beyond/370002716422856?fref=ts.