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'Operation Sandy Claus' helps kids 'left with nothing'

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 9:19 p.m.

A local project has been started to bring much-needed Christmas cheer to 1,800 teenagers in Ocean County, NJ impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

“Operation Sandy Claus: Pinelands Regional Junior and Senior High Schools” is the name of the project geared toward brightening the lives of students in the town of Little Egg Harbor.

“The junior high school served as a shelter during the storm with 600 residents spread across the gymnasium and cafeteria,” said local project organizer, Mary Dreliszak of Connellsville. “The shelter has now closed and school has resumed, but the devastation and impact is far from over. Most of the homes in this town were either damaged or destroyed.

“When I asked Kimberly Clark, assistant principal of the junior high school, what the needs are now, she said, ‘The students have returned and the mood is somber. They have lost so much. Christmas — This is what the students need to brighten their spirits.' And with that, Operation Sandy Claus was born.”

Businesses, service organizations, schools, and the community are invited to donate items students need most.

Because many students have been displaced from their homes and are living with other members of the community, suggested ideas are: gift cards for iTunes, Walmart, Target, Kmart, or Applebees; hoodies for males and females, plastic storage bins, both with drawers and without to store clothes; headphones, messenger bags, binders, pens, highlighters, journals, thumb drives and body care products, etc.

The unwrapped gifts can be taken to Henschel & Sons Exhaust and Equipment Warehouse, 1502 Memorial Blvd., Connellsville until noon on Friday.

Cavanaugh Trucking, in Connellsville, will serve as Sandy's sleigh, delivering the gifts to Pinelands Regional Junior High School the week of Dec. 10.

“This project is about giving hope and letting students know we care about them,” remarked Dreliszak.

Fliers are available for businesses and organizations wishing to conduct a gift drive. For more information, visit the Facebook page, “Operation Sandy Claus: Pinelands Regional Junior and Senior High Schools” or contact Mary Dreliszak at 724-984-0860 or at

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or