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November 22. 2012 8:21PM

Mother-daughter team makes delivery to Queens

PETERBOROUGH - More than 900 coats collected from residents of ConVal School District towns were delivered to needy Hurricane Sandy victims in Queens, N.Y., on Saturday by Peterborough mother and daughter Donna Ellis-Holmes and Kerry Close.

For about a week before the trip, every ConVal School District town elementary school served as a drop-off point for coats, as did the Peterborough Fire Station.

Area businesses also pitched in by providing bags, tags and food for volunteers working to sort donations. Local business and foundations also funded the truck and gas to make the trip, she said.

"The great part about it was, it was a great community effort," Close said Wednesday. "It wasn't like everybody did a bunch of stuff. Everybody did a little and it turned into something big."

Before Close and her mother drove the winter items down to Queens, a large group of volunteers spent days in the Peterborough Community Center sorting, tagging and bagging the coats in clear plastic bags so that they could be easily dispensed. Each coat had a tag that read "Warmly from the Monadnock region" with an image of Mount Monadnock.

Bags of hats, mittens and socks were also packed.

Having all of the items sorted by size and age for children made a huge difference, Close said.

At one point mother and daughter stopped their truck in Queens when they saw a group of women, with their children, gathered around a generator on a street corner charging their cell phones. They stopped because they noticed the children were huddled around the generator to keep warm.

Because the coats were tagged by sizes and ages they easily pulled out coats for the children.

At one stop Close and her mother gave some coats to people who could not read English, so in a way the image of the mountain told them where the coats had come from.

"They knew that ladies from New Hampshire brought them coats," Close said.

One stop was a church at which the janitor had opened a shelter. At first he didn't want to take the donations, Close said. But when he saw that the clothing had been organized by size and age, he gladly took it.

"They appreciated all the work from the community," she said. "There was so much being given. But there wasn't enough space or manpower being given. The hard part was breaking it down and that's where the donations were really appreciated."

At the shelters, Close said, she saw tons of clothing packed in black bags just being pushed aside because no one had the time to sort through those donations.

The devastation and destruction of Hurricane Sandy was still visible on their trip Saturday.

"We were driving around boats," Close said.

And cars were strewn around parking lots the way a child might leave match box cars lying around, she added. "It looked like a movie scene, add in the sand. . . . The amount of sand and just people out and about just trying to figure out what to do."

Because of all the debris, people were wearing masks, she said.

Close and her mother dropped off the winter clothing items at about 10 emergency shelters in Queens or to people on the street in need.

She said she didn't see federal assistance in Queens on Saturday; mostly it was just the community helping each other.

"I didn't see Red Cross. I didn't see FEMA. There were Mormons down there. There were church groups down there. There were volunteers, police and firemen working around the clock," Close said. "I couldn't believe the amount of sand. To just see the efforts of all the people trying to figure out what was going on and helping. Everywhere there were groups of people helping each other."

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Meghan Pierce may be reached at mpierce@newstote.com.


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