Forked River resident David Coppola, 22, reflects back on the success of localized “Restore the Shore” group a year after Hurricane Sandy.
By RYAN MCGRATH
A year has passed since Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore. Even though several parts of the shore have been cleaned up for the most part, there are certain areas that are far from being restored.
“It’s very important to help out because there are a lot of people who were negatively impacted by Hurricane Sandy that are still in need,” Forked River resident David Coppola said. “There are many houses in the surrounding areas that still haven’t been rebuilt and some people actually have received their aid yet.”
Coppola was the creative mind behind a grassroots “Restore the Shore” group that lent a helping hand to members of his community. With backing support from the Forked River Rotary Club, Coppola’s project successfully raised donations for families in need through the printing and distribution of t-shirts that were sold in local businesses around town.
Around the one year anniversary of Sandy, Coppola posted on the Restore the Shore’s Facebook page a heartfelt message, showing gratitude for the support gained throughout the year:
Even though he was grateful for the amount of positive feedback and support for his project, Coppola emphasizes that there are still a lot of residents in places like: Bayville, Waretown, Point Pleasant, Ortley Beach, Long Beach Island and other surrounding areas who still need all of the help they can get.
According to Thomas McGillick, a member of the Forked River Rotary Club, even though they have not planned any new fundraising ideas to help out those in the area who have been effected by Hurricane Sandy, however the Rotary Club are continuing to run the “Restore the Shore” apparel until the Summer of 2014 to see if members of the community would still be in support of the cause.
“I was absolutely satisfied with the overall success of the fundraising,” McGillick said. “Everybody was very extremely appreciative and thankful for our efforts.”
Sandy’s Impact Sparks Inspiration to Help
In the wake of the storm, countless numbers of organizations got to work to immediately with helping out those in need. 7.9 million businesses and households were without electrical power and the storm’s impact costs up to $18-$20 billion in property damage.
While some larger organizations mainly focused their attention on the heavily impacted Seaside Heights Boardwalk, smaller efforts from relief groups such as Shores United and Restore Our Shore reached out to surrounding communities to lend a helping hand as well.
“At the time, a lot of people in town needed help getting back on their feet, and I wanted to give back to the community,” said Coppola who was studying Political Science at Villanova University while Hurricane Sandy ravaged through his hometown. “The shore has shaped some of my best memories of spending time with my friends and family. It’s always going to be my home.”
The Process of Bringing the Idea to Life
Driven with ambition to give back to his community, Coppola came up with the idea to sell and distribute t-shirts with the intentions of having all of the proceeds going directly to residents effected by Sandy.
To promote the object of his cause, Coppola created a Facebook page to share developing news of the storm’s aftermath as well as introducing the designs ideas to interested residents. By promoting these designs online, Coppola’s objective at first was to search for a suitable organization as a central host who would provide him with credible support to back the t-shirt designs.
Rotary International is a service organization that brings together business and town leaders to exchange ideas and provide humanitarian efforts within a community.
According to Coppola, he had to go through an extensive copyrighting process to patten his design.
On the original design, Coppola said that a beach ball was drawn under the lighthouse to mimic the image of an explication point. However, when the design was fully copyrighted, the Rotary Club added their emblem in order to legitimize the shirt design.
“By having the Rotary logo imprinted under the lighthouse on the design, the shirts gained more credibility,” McGillick said. “Since the Rotary Club is a united service group of businessmen within the community, people would recognize where the money is going.”
Once the rotary was on board with the idea, a small number of “Restore the Shore” shirt designs were made by a local print shop. Several business owners who were also members of the Rotary Club distributed and sold the shirts in their stores.
Initial Feedback of the Fundraising
At first, there were a few conflicting viewpoints when Coppola first introduced the t-shirt design idea to the Rotary.
“Because apparel was already being done by other organizations, the Rotary was afraid that the shirts were not going to sell,” Coppola said.
To keep the shirt fundraising extremely hyper-local to avoid any possibilities of copyright issues, Coppola added that the Rotary strictly declined to expand on selling the shirts online.
However, according to McGillick, the Rotary Club successfully raised about $500,000 from t-shirt distribution. All of the process from the fundraising were equally divided amongst 10 families in surrounding areas who were affected by the storm.
“With some of the funds, we were able to help one local family raise enough money to buy a new washer and dryer,” McGillick said.
Coppola also added that another portion of the funds were also given to a family in Waretown who was able to purchase new beds and dressers as well as other appliances that were lost or damaged by the storm.
Coppola even received a thank you letter from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie showing appreciation for his fundraising efforts.
Months after the storm, shirt distribution remained steady. McGillick also said that because of the immediate demand of shirts from supportive residents, there also has even been talk of reprinting the shirts in different colors as well as designing sweatshirts.
“Overall the shirt fundraising was a great idea,” McGillick said. “David did a wonderful job with the designs and we [the Rotary] were glad to be chosen to be the central organization to help out and become involved with this project.”
Around the one year anniversary mark of Hurricane Sandy, David Coppola provides first hand perspectives on witnessing the Sandy’s impact a week after the storm ravaged through his hometown and surrounding areas. [Video produced by: Ryan McGrath]