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Hurricane Sandy coat drive adds a layer of connection

PETERBOROUGH — The Monadnock region was spared the worst of Hurricane Sandy, but the images of devastation in New York and New Jersey hit home to many, including two women who were inspired to gather much-needed warm coats and drive them all the way to Rockaway, the hard-hit section of Queens, N.Y., where so many people were flooded out of their homes.

On Nov. 10, after a week spent gathering coats and jackets at all the ConVal elementary schools, at the Peterborough Fire Station, Monadnock Community Hospital, RiverMead and through the Peterborough Rotary Club, Kerry Close and her mother, Donna Ellis Holmes, hit the road in a donated truck. They were headed toward New York City, with more than 900 donated coats, as well as hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, shoes and socks.

“We left at 8:30 in the morning and got back at about 3 in the morning the next day,” Close said on Monday. “We had 39 bags sorted for women and girls, and 44 bags for men and boys. “We had four bags full of coats for toddlers. They were all sized and color coded.”

Close said each coat had a tag attached, which showed a photo of Mount Monadnock and the phrase, “Warmly, the Monadnock region.” The tags, like the coats, the truck, the boxes of pizza for volunteer packers, the cost of gasoline and tolls, were donated by local residents.

“People were just so generous,” Close said. “People just kept dropping things off all week. The response from the community was overwhelming.”

Close said that because the volunteers in New Hampshire had done so much work sorting, organizing and labeling the items, they were able to deliver them directly to local distribution centers.

Some of the items were even passed out in person to people in need. Close recalled that as they went from site to site in the Rockaway neighborhood, they noticed a group of people gathered around a portable generator, using it to charge cell phones and trying to stay warm.

“We pulled up and asked if they needed coats,” Close recalled. “One woman came over and said her daughter was cold. We were able to go to our bags and we pulled out a beautiful red wool, knee-length coat. Then we found a green one for her son.”

Close said they had to drive around boats washed up on the roadway in order to get to Rockaway, but the trip was worth it because they were able to bring help directly to those in need.

“We were dealing with people who didn’t have a thing, but they knew there were people from New Hampshire who cared,” Close said.

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