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A MLK Day of Service, at the Shore

Haddonfield students help rebuild dunes today near Seaside Heights.

'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.

Lee Pease January 22, 2013 at 01:17 AM
Our HMHS teenagers don't get nearly enough recognition for the good works that they perform. The MLK Day of Service is just one example of their contributions to our community and beyond. I encourage everyone in Haddonfield to support our teenagers in their next event - the HMHS Charity Volleyball Marathon on February 8th and 9th. Last year, 280 students raised over $22,000 for charity. And this year, they hope to raise even more!
Paul January 22, 2013 at 05:29 AM
Here here! A fine example of taking care of one another without political motives/boundaries or any other swill that taints the well of community.
Maryann Campling January 22, 2013 at 12:31 PM
Thanks to these young men and women and to the parents who raised them. I get discouraged sometimes about how ego-centric and self-absorbed some kids are these days. My Grandmom used to tell me "to whom much is given, much is expected." Some good advice for all of us.
Tish Colombi January 22, 2013 at 06:45 PM
I was at the high school early Monday as the students gathered to go off to their work places. The group going to the shore, an idea of Jean Shea's, were accompanied by Beth Pease and Mary Anne Zaleski. Also on hand was Jeff Tucker of Tucker Trucking Company, who supplied the truck that took the trees. This was a perfect example of the goodness of Haddonfield, everyone working together with first an idea, then an outreach, then the completion of the project. The kids were excited and happy to be a part of the recovery of our Jersey Shore. Huge thanks to all involved in this great act of sharing on MLK day. Tish Colombi

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