Robert Harzer of Seaside Heights, NJ and Derek Koch of Brick, NJ speak about their experiences with Sandy. Harzer talks about his experience as an affected resident, while Koch speaks about his experience as an unaffected resident.
POINT PLEASANT, N.J.- On Oct. 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy crashed into the coasts of New Jersey, New York, and Maryland, causing billions of dollars in damage, and taking the lives of 72 people.
The “Super Storm,” as it was dubbed, was felt in the hearts of many in not only the United States, but across the Eastern Hemisphere. Now, one year later in 2013, a clothing company based out of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, is still trying to make a difference.
ERGO Clothing in Point Pleasant has been producing their line of “Restore the Shore” merchandise to help raise money for the damages caused by Hurricane Sandy for about a year now. With hats, stickers, sweatshirts, t-shirts, and more, they’ve managed to raise over $150,000 thus far, and counting.
The idea all started in an on-campus apartment at Rowan University, back in 2012. Rowan student and ERGO intern Derek Koch sat in his living room, contemplating a way to help raise money for the damage to his hometown of Brick, and surrounding areas.
“I figured since I’m a graphic designer I’d just make a t-shirt,” said Koch. “Maybe then just pool my money and sell some to people at school, and give someone a check.”
Koch would then put his skills as a graphic designer to the test as he designed a tee to help raise some money to help out.
“It all started with that idea to just sell some t-shirts out of a box,” said Koch. “Then, once it got on Facebook, it kept getting share after share and it just exploded exponentially.”
After he posted it on Facebook, the image went viral. Within hours it had hundreds of shares and likes, and was spreading across the social media site.
That is when Travis LeBar got involved. A hometown friend of Koch, LeBar would join in the initiative to make the design into a reality. In the early stages of the shirt’s stint on the Internet LeBar contacted Koch with the plan of helping out.
“I saw Derek’s shirt on Wednesday night and thought it was an awesome idea,” said LeBar. “In my head at the time I figured we would sell a few shirts, donate some money and feel good about what we did for our friends who lost everything during the storm.”
Soon enough, Koch would contact his boss, co-owner of ERGO, Pete DiSpirito, who took the project to all new heights. Now, along with the Facebook page, titled Restore the Shore Projects, ERGO sells the merchandise, donating all proceeds to the charity Waves For Water, an organization that donates clothes and food, and helps clean up the area.
“I’m not sure on the exact number we’ve raised. I know it’s big and I know it’s amazing what can happen in such a short amount of time,” LeBar said. “The area has pulled together on this and created something I never imagined when I asked Derek what I could do to help. I’m proud to say that I’m a part of this.”
“I’m really glad Derek and Travis brought the idea to us here at ERGO,” said DiSpirito. “Because of their initiative, we’ve raised and donated around $1.2 million in supplies and monetary donations.”
Despite all of the efforts to replace and rebuild the damages from the super storm, there are still an estimated 30,000 people in New York and New Jersey who are displaced, and unable to live in their homes, according to sources in the New York Times.
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has stated that thus far $1.4 billion has been provided in direct aid, along with an additional $7.9 billion in flood insurance payouts. Unfortunately, for some, the payments they received have not covered the costs of the damages.
Less than half of the people affected by Sandy who sought out emergency money for the damage to their homes didn’t receive any, according to a New York Times analysis. Flood insurances have covered only a fraction of the total costs that many displaced folks need.
“It’s just awful what people have been put through in these areas, just awful,” said DiSpirito. “There are still people who have almost nothing. And they’re mostly people who live in these areas year round.”
There are still many issues that need to be fixed in the New York and New Jersey areas from damages from Sandy. One can only hope that now, a year later, things will finally begin to look up to the bright side.
“If you take a drive down Route 35 [in New Jersey] you cans still see how bad it is,” said Koch. “There are still houses that haven’t even begun to be rebuilt.”
The communities have come together to bring in some much needed support, but even now, a year later, it seems that the area has a long way to go.