Family Power

Sandy aid from Chicago Lakefront to Jersey Shore

By Ray O'Hanlon

Congress might be reluctant to pony up for Sandy relief but, as has been evident in recent weeks, huge numbers of regular folk have been only too willing to give their time, energy and money to those whose lives were turned upside down by the storm.

Add two more to that roll of honor, one a New Jersey college student, the other her aunt in Chicago.

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Tess McGuire, a 20 year-old Rockaway native and student at the College of New Jersey, is the director of fundraising for NJ Strong. This is when she is not studying for final exams, or working at a pet store in Ewing.

On weekends, Tess assists fellow Rockaway native Lindsay Donald and her brother Stephen, who together formed NJ Strong (NJ Strong.net) - this after Lindsay created a Facebook page to gauge interest in assisting in hurricane relief.

The response was overwhelming, so in order to keep things legitimate, and show their seriousness, they applied to become an incorporated non-profit organization.

Much of their effort has been directed towards cleaning up and delivering supplies gathered at drives that NJ Strong has organized.

NJ Strong, according to a release, is committed to bringing people to the Jersey Shore to do cleanup every weekend until the job is done.

These "Warrior Weekends," said the release, have been growing and the organization has mobilized about 200 volunteers in five different locations and has worked on preparing 30 homes for reconstruction.

Hundreds of miles away in Chicago, meanwhile, Tess's aunt and godmother, Kathy O'Neill, was horrified by the images she saw of the storm. O'Neill, a West Orange, New Jersey native, loved to visit the Jersey Shore when she was young and lived for a few summers in Wildwood Crest.

After the storm, O'Neill was concerned about her family and her many friends who live on the east coast.

As a publicist, stage manager, and large-scale special events producer, she knew she could tap into her many friends who were performers and ask them to help.

Her fundraiser, "From Lake Shore to the Jersey Shore" was held before Christmas in Chicago. It raised $1,700 on the night with more donations promised. O'Neill gathered musicians, actors and performers for a cabaret-style evening to support victims to support some of the areas hardest hit by Sandy. All donations were slated to go to the FoodBank of Ocean and Monmouth Counties.

"I'm proud of Tess and her friends at NJ Strong. Everyone in Chicago who knows me knows how proud I am of growing up in New Jersey and what a big part of my life it is. A benefit is the very least I can do, for now," O'Neill, who is also Public Relations Manager for Chicago's Irish American Heritage Center, told the Echo.