EAST WATERFORD - "It can't be done, it can't be done."
Nancy Parson, of Parson's Notary Service, said those words echoed in her head as she began organizing the Sandy Crisis Project, sponsored by East Waterford Presbyterian Church. It was crazy to think that one small community in Central Pennsylvania could fill a whole trailer of supplies to be delivered to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, people told her.
However, as donations poured into local drop-off businesses, it became clear that the small 16-foot trailer set aside for the project would be too small. By the time the delivery date approached, Parson said volunteers were unable to fit everything into a 53-foot trailer, so her family loaded excess items into their pickup truck and went along for the ride.
"I've never seen so many volunteers just pitching in and getting it done," Parson said.
When Parson, her husband, Rodger, and grandson, Grant, arrived in Little Egg Township, N.J., she said the view was not what she expected.
"There's no way to describe that out there," she said, pausing to collect her thoughts. "Five weeks into this... I was actually expecting them to have more residents back."
Instead, the family drove into a largely vacant town with colored tags on every door. Parson said the tags indicated whether properties were safe, needed to be re-evaluated or would be demolished. Few residents remained in the area, but relief volunteers were present, she said.
When the family arrived at Little Egg Harbor Township Community Center, where donations were being received, the mayor of Little Egg was waiting to meet them, Parson said.
"The mayor lost everything he owned. He had a small trucking company and business," Parson said. "He was so aware of what people were going through."
The larger truck and trailer full of donations arrived later than expected, but volunteers from Operation Blessing International were ready and waiting to unload it.
"The most amazing thing about it is how these people work," Parson said.
The trailer that took about four hours to load at home was emptied within two hours in New Jersey. Volunteers lined up side to side, from the back of the truck to an empty spot in the community center, and boxes were handed quickly from one person to the next, she said.
Along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Parson said Operation Blessing was the largest presence she saw during her time in N.J. She said the volunteers work with and care for victims of the storm, and donations are delivered directly to them.
"We watched an amazing amount of volunteers working in very well-organized groups, getting what was needed, done," she said.
Because of her grandson's school schedule, Parson said the trip only lasted three days, from Dec. 12 to 14. Though she regrets not having time to visit the military bases where residents are currently being housed, she said the experience was one of the best examples of the amazing generosity of the East Waterford community.
Parson thanked Zimmerman Trucklines for providing the truck, trailer and driver, Justin Henry, at no expense to the project. She also thanked the following people and businesses for their support in collecting and distributing donations: George White, of White's Planing Mill and Lumber Company; Dan Love, of Love Shine Rentals; John Eaton, of Eaton's Hit and Run; the East Waterford Fire Company; Zook's Warehouse; Lack-Tuscarora Emergency Medical Services; Nina Dunn and Barb Murphy, of Cross Keys; Pat Henry and Jackie Fowler, of McCoysville; Sara Stoltzfus, of Rock Lane Construction; Janice Price, of Blairs Mills; Dina Hampton, Dina's Hair Design; Bernie Rowles; Harry Diven; Thomas Jodon; Sierra Parson, Grant Parson; Carol Wegrzyn; the media outlets that called for donations; and the rest of the community who donated time, money or supplies to the project.
Together, Parson said the community proved that even a small area in Pennsylvania can make a difference.
"All it takes is a little bit of faith," she said.
For more information or to help with hurricane relief efforts through Operation Blessing International, visit www.ob.org.