Hundreds of first responders at the Jersey Shore got a taste of home for Thanksgiving despite having been rendered homeless by the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
They can thank some caring Philadelphia colleagues for their holiday meals.
Members of the locally based American First Responder Institute of Heraldry prepared and delivered more than 400 turkey dinners for firefighters, paramedics and police in Seaside Heights and Wildwood last Thursday, including many who still can’t return to their storm-damaged homes and many others who lost their homes altogether.
Retired Philadelphia Firefighter Bill Finegan and colleagues founded the non-profit institute in the aftermath of 9/11 to advocate for and support financially the families of first responders who lose their lives in the line of duty. The group also aspires to improve public recognition of the sacrifices and contributions first responders make.
The Jersey Shore firefighters, paramedics and police embodied that spirit as they remained in harm’s way during the height of the storm and as they continue to lead recovery efforts.
“They stayed and did their jobs knowing they didn’t have homes to go back to,” said Philip Weiss, president of the World Trade Center Rescuers Foundation and a volunteer in last week’s meal program.
Weiss met one firefighter in Seaside Heights who said that his home has been condemned and his family is living with relatives “two states” away. Yet, he continues to pull 16-hour shifts in the disaster zone and sleeps at the firehouse.
Crews are still pumping water from homes and businesses, clearing fallen trees and working to restore infrastructure in many areas.
“He’s working on Thanksgiving,” Weiss said of the Seaside firefighter.
About 20 volunteers gathered at Maggie’s Waterfront Cafe in East Torresdale to prepare the meals, which included turkey breast, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, “a traditional Thanksgiving dinner,” said John Nagele, the Maggie’s general manager.
Big Machine Label Group of Nashville and New Jersey-based U.S. Foods supplied the meals. Other contributors included the Philadelphia police and firefighters unions, All Hands Working, The First Twenty and the Washington Lodge #59 of the Free Masons.••