When Sandy made landfall, it destroyed buildings and boardwalks; more than that, it tore apart the lives of the people who call the Jersey shore home. The peninsula town of Sea Bright was plunged underwater on two fronts: the Atlantic Ocean from one side and the Shrewsbury River from the other.
Once the storm lifted and the extent of the damage was known, a few local chefs and restaurateurs decided to set up some grills and tables and make meals for the first responders. Then they started feeding displaced residents. The National Guard was dispatched to keep looters away and they, too, were having their meals inside the town’s Firehouse. Soon the demand was so steep, the cooks couldn’t keep up.
Using Facebook, a call went out to the larger shore community. People came to cook from dawn to dusk and donations poured in — food, drink, clothing, medicines, cleaning supplies — so much was brought in that Sea Bright began helping out other towns in the area.
This past weekend, almost 5,000 lunches were served. The volunteers also served hundreds of breakfasts and dinners. Sea Bright is a town of just over 4,000 residents.
On Thanksgiving, restaurant owner Tim McLoone has invited the residents of Sea Bright to have dinner at Gibbs Hall; that’s the officers club at Fort Monmouth, the recently closed Army base in nearby Eatontown, New Jersey. Chefs from two culinary schools will go to the Sea Bright Firehouse and cook dinner for those who stay in town. Chris Wood, the restaurant owner who started it all, says the biggest issue is where to cook the 400 turkeys that were donated.
As rebuilding goes forward, Sea Bright’s downtown will probably look a lot different — an entire block is likely to be demolished. Wood says he’s going to reopen his restaurant. Other business owners have said they will reopen, too. Wood also says as long as people in Sea Bright need to be fed, he and his army of volunteers will continue to be there, grilling burgers in front of the firehouse.
In the video below, Noah Smith interviewed some of the hardest-hit businesses in Sea Bright, as well as the volunteers who spent last weekend helping them out, for NJ News Commons at Montclair State University.