Donations flow as McCandless man collects truckload of supplies for Sandy victims
By Deborah Deasy
Published: Wednesday, November 21, 2012, 8:52 p.m.
Updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Residents of Monmouth County, N.J., might wish to toast bartender Matt Imhof of McCandless.
Imhof needed a box truck to carry all the clothes, canned goods, blankets, cleaning supplies and other donations he collected for people affected by Superstorm Sandy.
“I was following the storm coming,” he said. “When I woke up and saw what was done to the place where I grew up and called home for nearly 30 years, it hit me right in the gut.
“A $10 donation to the Red Cross just didn't feel like I was doing my part,” Imhof said.
Imhof then put together a flyer and set out to gather goods, including food, paper products and toiletries for needy storm victims.
“Over the last three years, I've had a lot of people help me through a lot of things, and I looked at it as a way of paying back,” Imhof said. “That's how it got started.”
Imhof expected to deliver the fruits of his largesse on Nov. 17 to multiple sites in northern New Jersey, including a food bank in Red Bank and a fire department in Sea Bright. Imhof also expected to distribute goods through the Northern Monmouth Chamber of Commerce.
“The donation sites keep changing,” he said.
Imhof needed a U-Haul cargo van to haul all the goods he collected.
A Bronx, N.Y., native, Imhof, 41, grew up in New Monmouth, N.J., and moved to north suburban Pittsburgh about a dozen years ago. Members of his extended family still live in northern New Jersey.
A single dad, Imhof is a self-employed personal trainer who tends bar, waits on tables and trains servers at the Olive Garden in Cranberry. Imhof also works part time as a sales associate at Elite Runners & Walkers in Robinson Township.
His two sons, Noah, 8, and Josh, 9, attend Hance Elementary School in Richland and Eden Hall Upper Elementary School in Pine.
The boys' teachers – Julie Dayton of Eden Hall Upper Elementary School and Kerry Schurman of Hance Elementary School — and Imhof's fiancée — Suzanna Krispli, director of Hampton Community Library — helped to gather everything from blankets and buckets to toothpaste and toilet paper, plus, canned goods, clothes and cash.
Imhof picked up untold boxes of donations at his sons' schools, plus, the Hampton Community and Northern Tier Regional libraries.
“The response was overwhelming,” said Krispli of Hampton Community Library. “A lot of people wanted to help.”
Teacher Bob Tucek of Hampton learned about the project and sought help from his sixth- , seventh- and eighth-graders at St. Edmund's Academy in Squirrel Hill.
“We talked to all the kids in their homerooms, and sent an email out to parents,” Tucek said. “Whenever there's a disaster, we try to help.”
Last week, Tucek delivered about 25 bags of donated blankets, sweatshirts, jackets, toiletries and diapers from St. Edmund's Academy to Hampton Community Library.
Imhof then picked up the goods and transported them to his Presidential Arms apartment complex in McCandless.
“I'm tired. That's van load No. 5,” Imhof said one morning last week after filling up his Dodge minivan.
“Peoples' goodwill has been overwhelming.”
Kevin Smith, owner of Elite Runners & Walkers, and Imhof's employer, rented the U-Haul cargo van that Imhof ultimately packed with donations and drove to New Jersey.
“It started out very simple. I figured I'd get a couple boxes of things,” Imhof said. “The next thing you know — goodwill just started to pour in — more than I ever fathomed.”
Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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