When Andover’s Diane Dillon saw the destruction caused in New York and New Jersey by Superstorm Sandy, she wanted to help. Turns out, she’s not alone - not by a long shot. After setting up a relief program called “Sending Sunshine,” she has been swamped with bags of clothes, shoes, flashlights, cleaning supplies and other items meant to help people in need.
“There have been people in droves,” said Dillian, early Tuesday night. “We just got a package from California and Florida. I don’t even know these people.”
The Harrington Moving Company offered the group 4,000 square feet at Dundee Park on Railroad Avenue, where Dillon and other volunteers are now collecting and sorting donations. The Burlington and Wilmington school superintendents are rallying behind the cause.
By early Tuesday night, Sending Sunshine had been given 2,000 bags of supplies, she said. It expected to stay open at Dundee Park from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day, through Sunday, collecting items including winter coats, boots, hats and items for babies and pets. People interested in learning more about how they can help can visit www.facebook.com/sendingsunshine2012. Dillon said she has been using social media including Facebook, Twitter and emails to spread the message. Andover and North Andover youth were at the polling places in those towns Tuesday handing out thousands of flyers about the effort.
“People are incredible. A woman from Swampscott - I don’t know her - called me today and said she had some stuff. She brought in 20 bags of new clothing,” she said. “[Another] woman came up and said, I have been looking and looking and looking for places to drop this off.”
Dillon said a moving company will pick up donations in Boston, Swampscott and other locations and bring them to Andover; a ski shop in Pittsfield is sending 40 jackets; another company is giving 40 trash cans. Donations will be sent to the hard hit New York City boroughs of Queens and Staten Island and to assist people in New Jersey. Dillon grew up on the Jersey Shore.
“This is about individual people making a difference. The human spirit is incredible. We’re Americans and this is what we do. It’s a wonderful thing that people want to give,” she said. “Imagine if you woke up one day and every thing you owned was gone. This is about bringing together a group of people, finding what they do best to help rebuild the human spirit.”
Yadira Betances contributed to this story.
What: Sending Sunshine is collecting non-perishable food, Gatorade, baby food, cereal and canned good; batteries, flashlights, face masks, powered milk, aspirin, Clorox, peanut butter, power bars, diapers, baby wipes, blankets, hand sanitizer, towels, soap, shampoo, contractor bags and band-aids; gently worn or new clothing including coats, jeans, pajamas, work clothes, packaged underwear, socks and undershirts.
When: Nov. 6-11, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: Drop items at Dundee Park in Andover, first building on the right, 3 Railroad Ave., or mail items to Sending Sunshine, in care of Diane Dillon, 7 Lenox Circle, Andover, MA 01810.