A Madison Junior School school student nearly had the mayor of Union Beach in tears as she spoke at the Madison governing body's reorganization meeting about a field trip she and fellow students recently took to survey damage from Superstorm Sandy in the shore town.
About 60 students cleaned the beach, unloaded donated building materials and delivered a check for money they raised for relief efforts. The field trip was part of Madison's boroughwide efforts to help the shore town.
Union Beach Mayor Paul J. Smith Jr. and council members Victor Tuberion and Charles Cocuzza attended Tuesday's meeting to accept a donated Madison police car, a donation from Venture Crew 77 and thanked the Madison community for its efforts to help their town.
"You almost had me in tears there," Smith said of the student's presentation.
The student, Student Council President Owen Matthews, said the trip was an eye-opening experience and seeing blocks of destroyed houses made students realize how hard some New Jersey towns were hit by the storm compared to Madison.
"We have had fundraisers for other disaster relief, but we had never actually physically gone," she said.
Madison Junior School teacher and student council adviser Stephen Finkelstein showed video of the trip and spoke about the experience. He said the dozens of the students brought a distinct energy to their volunteer efforts, such as singing "Jingle Bells" while unloading supplies, that lifted the spirits of residents and other volunteers.
At the meeting, the Madison Borough Council approved a resolution donating a police car that Madison no longer needs to Union Beach, and Dan Collins, a member of Venture Crew 77, presented Smith with a donation from the Venture Crew's electronics recycling fundraiser.
Madison Mayor Bob Conley highlighted some of the other ways members of the Madison community have helped, including borough electrical inspector Bob Smith, Fire Chief Lou DeRosa and construction official Russ Brown spending a day helping residents get their homes powered up, contributing more than $80,000 in donations, and volunteer efforts by Boy Scouts, the Madison Rotary, and other groups.
"I know I speak for the whole town and my colleagues here. We can't thank you enough for what you're doing, from the bottom of our hearts," Smith said.
He said they hope the students will return for another class trip over the summer so they can have hot dogs and hamburgers on the beach.
Two other New Jersey towns, Colts Neck and Bound Brook, have "adopted" Union Beach, focusing their relief efforts there. Smith said the support from concerned people and communities has been unbelievable.
"We have met so many beautiful people it's unbelievable how they've touched us," he said during the meeting. "I'm almost in tears. I thought I was a lot stronger than that. Generosity from throughout the country, and the beautful people like Madison, we can't thank you enough. God bless all of you and a happy and healthy New Year."
For more information about Madison's partnership with Union Beach and ways to help visit the borough's Union Beach Partership page on RoseNet.org. The Madison Elks Lodge is hosting a pancake breakfast benefit from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday.