Hillsdale and Westwood residents and restaurants rallied around the senior citizens who live at Hillsdale House after Hurricane Sandy knocked out power to the apartment complex.
At first, the residents and staff expected the outage to last just a day or so. It ended up taking almost two weeks to fully restore power to Hillsdale House, which has more than 100 affordable housing apartments for seniors.
"We realized it wasn't going to come back on anytime soon," property manager Patricia D'Amico said.
By the Wednesday after the storm, residents were living in the dark and running low on food and batteries.
"You went upstairs and you were alone in the dark," Ruth Muller, a resident, said.
As word of the residents' situation spread, restaurants and community groups began bringing in food to help out. Families brought their children to spend some time with the residents, even if they weren't related to anyway who lived there. Teens who had volunteered at Hillsdale House came back for a few rounds of bingo.
"Everybody in this community that heard about our situation was calling here, coming here or bringing something here," D'Amico said.
Hillsdale House residents told Patch the outpouring of support made a big difference to them. They were so happy to have the company that they didn't want to go up to bed at night.
"It was overwhelming to see the community come and help us all out," resident Ruth Delvalle said. "They helped us out during a very long two weeks."
Residents also said they wanted to thank the complex's management and staff for their help during the outage. D'Amico and other management were working long hours to get the residents everything they needed. Building Superintendent Oscar Lopez and his staff were running around to different apartments to check on the residents for concerned family members and move refrigerator plugs to working sockets after power was partially restored.
"We all took care of each other like we were a family," Lopez said.
The list of people D'Amico wanted to thank include:
- Butch Franklin of the Office of Emergency Management for bringing fuel for the generator, which powered hall lights and an elevator.
- Lee Tremble of the Iron Horse and St. Andrew's Church, who sent food from a soup kitchen at the church.
- Jeanne Martin of Meals on Wheels and Care One at Valley, who donated nonperishable food and other items.
- Marianne Wall of the Thomas J. Riley Senior Center, who donated paper goods and bread which had been given to Westwood House by Trader Joe's.
- Hillsdale borough nurse Lois Kohan and her family, who served food to residents and dressed up for Halloween.
- Barbara Martine and the Hillsdale Health Department, who helped serve, clean and check on residents.
- Hillsdale Councilmen Anthony DeRosa and Frank Pizzella, who brought over flashlights and batteries.
- Hillsdale House Board President Colette Killian and board members who organized and served a pasta dinner to the residents.
- Pam Silco, who helped and spread the word to others that donations were needed.
- Shannon Casey and her daughters, who helped serve meals and clean, and also arranged for Davey's Locker in Montvale to donate a meal to the residents.
- Hillsdale Helping Hillsdale for donating chicken dinners and Kings for donating vegetables for the meal.
- Cornerstone, Bensi and Big Daddy's Pizza, who all donated dinner for the residents with help from Gail Sanitarian of the Northwest Bergen Regional Health Commission.
- Sam and Diana Chan, who shop for the residents year-round and bring fresh produce.
- The Westwood Elks, who donated $500 for residents to replace food that went bad.
- Helping Hands Food Pantry, who is donating $50 to each apartment to replace food.
- Emerald Management President Steve Cirillo and Vice President Val Hartman, who made sure the residents had everything they needed.
- Building Superintendent Oscar Lopez and his staff, Orlando and Gerard, for running around to help all the residents.
- Tenants Julie Ciesielski and Dorothea Aldridge, who came down early each morning to make hot coffee for the other residents and Patricia Fagnano, who made sure the other residents had a movie to watch in the community room every day to pass the time.
- Students from local schools who helped serve food and deliver it door-to-door to those who could not come downstairs.