YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Relief of another kind comes to New Jersey this weekend when two 18-wheelers filled with donated fire and EMS equipment, as well as other essential goods arrives at The Bergen County Law & Public Safety Institute in Mahwah from Chicago and South Carolina.
Making it possible are two Bergen County couples – one former, the other current – along with several well-connected friends from North Jersey and the Shore.
“What started off as an idea has exploded to an outpouring of help, support, and donations from the private sector, doctors , medics , EMS agencies, as well as multiple other agencies too numerous to mention,” said former Lodi resident Nadine (Nicastro) Demczyszyn, who now lives at the Shore and operates On the Spot Graphics with her husband, Rich.
The Demczyszyns originally set out to collect and distribute supplies to Shore-area firefighters and emergency responders who were stretched beyond thin by Hurricane Sandy. They posted a request on Facebook on Nov. 1 seeking medical items – the kinds of things you’d find in the first-aid isle of a drug store – for Atlantic Highlands and Sea Bright.
It seemed a simple enough gesture, true grassroots support for those sworn to protect people and property no matter the circumstances. As Rich began making deliveries to Sea Bright and Union Beach, Nadine created a new Facebook page seeking items that first responders could use:
A series of fortunate incidents followed.
First, an influential friend got involved: Independent publisher Justin Auciello created and operates the Facebook page, “Jersey Shore Hurricane News,” which already was wildly popular before it became a go-to source for breaking news and valuable information before, during and after Sandy.
No sooner did Auciello get the word out than the number of posts, emails and phone swelled – not just from around the state and the country but the world. In less than a week, the Demczyszyns had created an overnight sensation.
Which presented an enormous problem. It was while taking a call from a Chicago firefighter asking where he could deliver a tractor trailer full of supplies that Dave realized the operation needed to expand – quickly.
First the group painstakingly gathered specific supply lists for first responders from one end of the state to the other.
Then the Demczyszyns assembled the necessary policies and procedures, summoning the collective business know-how of the On the Spot Graphics team.
All they needed was a drop-off point.
“They wanted to be able to accept and store these items and then distribute them across the state, but they couldn’t make the right connection,” said Sherri Ciarocco of Lodi – a childhood friend of Rich’s.
Ciarocco, a former Lodi Fire Prevention Bureau assistant, and her boyfriend, former Lodi Fire Chief Lou Tosto, got crackin.’
Bergen County Fire Coordinator Larry Rauch, whose son is with the Jackson Fire Department, immediately threw in.
So did county Fire Marshal Bryan Henning and Jim Shrewsbury, a county sheriff’s officer who is also deputy chief of the Point Pleasant Fire Department.
As a result, the county Law & Public Safety Institute (Bergen County Police/EMS/Fire Academy) is now the delivery and distribution location for all large shipments coming in.
Henning has arranged for Moonachie and Little Ferry first responders to come up for various items.
Shipments will then be loaded onto smaller trucks and brought to the Shore, as well as to other points of the state hit hard by Sandy and Athena.
And that’s only the beginning. What began as a local mission of mercy has blossomed into a statewide relief effort.
You wouldn’t know it from Nadine and Rich.
This week’s storm briefly knocked out power to their IEFS command center – aka: home.
“The transformer outside our house … blew up at 2 a.m. several times — lighting up our house like something I’ve never seen or want to see again,” Nadine said.
Still, she and Rich kept accepting calls and arranging deliveries.
At last count, they’d been offered three 18-wheelers, several UHaul truckloads and even a planeload of supplies, in addition to loans of fire trucks, ambulances and other mobile equipment.
“The generosity is beyond belief,” said Nadine, whose family has produced generations of police officers.
“They did it all,” Ciarocco told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “We just helped them.”
Organizers hope to continue raising funds and collecting much-needed replacement equipment, from fire hoses to batteries to boots, Ciarocco said. IEFS isn’t a 501(c )3 – the purpose is getting items that first responders need. However, you can choose to donate money to the effort.
To find out more, click on the image below. Or call the Demczyszyns at On The Spot Graphics: (732) 994-5112
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