'Tis the season to help rebuild dunes at the Jersey Shore.
At least that's the way a group of students at Haddonfield Memorial High School see it. About two dozen of them have decided to brave a biting, cold ocean breeze today to help rebuild dunes on Midway Beach in South Seaside Heights that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October. It's a service project on the Martin Luther King national holiday Monday, but the genius of it is deeper than that.
The students will use more than 150 Christmas trees tossed out after the holidays to implant them in the dunes to catch sand. The effort recycles trees, helps rebuild a pristine stretch of Long Beach Island and builds awareness for the legacy of MLK.
"We are given this day off of school in remembrance of the sacrifices of Martin Luther King Jr., so what better way to spend it than taking part in service opportunities in his name?" Emma Gutman, a Haddonfield High junior said. "I really liked the idea of having direct involvement in the recovery of the Jersey Shore. With Hurricane Sandy's disastrous effects that are relevant to so many people close to our area, this is a uniquely hands-on opportunity, as opposed to only being able to donate when a situation like this happens far away."
The effort was organized by Jean Shea, whose son Patrick is a student at the high school. Shea had heard about the Shore project but needed help to connect Haddonfield to it. In stepped Mayor Tish Colombi, who connected Shea to the borough public works department, which agreed to store the trees instead tossing them into a chipper at curbside, and Jeff and Jim Tucker, the owners of a local trucking company, who agreed to donate a truck to transport them. The school board chipped in a school bus for the kids and the effort was launched.
It's a win, win, win.
"It’s a way for one community to help another community without asking for anyone to reach in pocket and donate," Shea said. "It's about giving of yourself, time and effort."
Shea said she was also impressed with students willing to take the 1 1/2-hour bus ride each way on a day where temperatures aren't expected to climb past 31 degrees.
"Everyone saw the pictures in the news of iconic places at the Jersey Shore left in shambles," Gutman said. "Of all the disasters we hear about, this one has directly affected people so close to us. If possible, we should take every opportunity we can to help out with incidents so close to home like this and rebuild the area so the Jersey Shore can be enjoyed by so many again."
Shea said a ranger from Island Beach State park will also be on hand to speak to the students about conservation and the beach replenishment effort.