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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Superstorm Sandy Book Fundraiser Still Meeting Needs

It’s been nearly a year since Hurricane Sandy hit the northeastern United States coastline on October 29, 2012. The hurricane was later downgraded to a Superstorm that hit parts of New York and New Jersey.

Dr. Kathy M. Woods Ignatoski, a Michigan resident, was concerned about her father, Harry Woods, who lived on Mystic Island. Superstorm Sandy eventually destroyed his home, which devastated Kathy’s then 12-year-old daughter, Theresa,  who loved visiting her grandfather. 


Theresa was so affected by her grandfather’s loss, that her teacher suggested she write a descriptive essay about the impact it had on her.  So Dr. Ignatoski thought, if her daughter felt this way, how do children feel who actually went through the story? So she decided to publish a book of essays written by students. The book, Superstorm Sandy: In the Eyes of the Children, published by MANA, was used as a fundraiser with all proceeds going to St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Tuckerton, NJ. 
MANA recently asked Dr. Ignatoski for an update on her grandfather, her daughter and how the book: 
MANA: How is your daughter doing? She was the inspiration behind the book, correct?
Dr. Kathy Woods Ignatoski:  My daughter is doing fine; although, watching documentaries on Sandy still get to her.  I am anxious to see what happens on the first anniversary.  However, she is excited about my dad’s new house and has been helping me shop for wall decorations and such.
MANA: How is your father doing? Has he relocated?
KWI: My dad has been living with my older brother in Freehold, NJ, since the storm (that is where he took refuge during the storm and has stayed on).  My dad is rebuilding.  He has been having issues with the SBA and the Sandy relief funds set up to help people.  The red tape and overwhelming need has caused a nightmare of a situation.  We are hoping his house is done by Thanksgiving, but that is a long shot.  Although, my dad’s builder called in a favor to get his siding done quickly, the demand is so overwhelming that the people doing siding are backed up 3 months!  This is the case for most construction, plumbing, electrical work there.  After almost a year, my dad still does not have a house to live in.

MANA: How many students and teachers were involved in creating the book?
KWI: To start the book, I approached all of my friends from Michigan who had ties to NJ and asked them to have their kids write something.  I also sent out a Facebook message to friends of mine back in NJ.  My cousin teaches fifth grade in Harrison, NJ, so she and her teacher friend had their classes write an essay as an assignment.  There is also a Catholic school that the parishioners of St. Theresa’s send their kids to in Southern NJ.  It has students from 19 parishes all around southern NJ.  Since those kids live where the worst damage occurred, their school had them all write essays about their experiences in the storm about a week after the storm hit and they had gotten back to school.  The essays from this school are some of the more scary ones in the book, as some of these kids stayed in their homes during the height of the storm.  I wish I could have gotten all of the essays from the school, but they had a worm hit their server shortly after I asked for the essays, so they were only able to send a few.  
MANA: How did parents, other teacher and the school administrators react to the book?
KWI: All of the people I asked had some ties to NJ.  NJ has a strong spirit and a strong following amongst past and present residents.  Thus, the book was well received by all.

MANA: How have people at church (the Catholic Church) reacted to the book?
KWI: I started out collecting money for gift cards for St Theresa’s parish in Tuckerton.  That parish alone had over 600 homes destroyed.  The pastor was very appreciative, so it seemed to me to be the logical place to partner with for the book.  My dad tries to “fly under the radar” there, so he didn’t tell them he lost his home, and since he had shelter (with my brother), he never asked them for any help.  When the book came out, the parish put it in their bulletin to advertise it, using my dad’s name.  He said he couldn’t “fly under the radar” anymore!  We sold several books through that advertisement.  Then, the parish ordered 50 books, and sold out of those extremely quickly and had orders for 50 more.  Overall, the book has raised over $1,000 for the people of St Theresa’s. 

MANA: What was it like having to work with people in two different states (Michigan and NJ) to get the book published?
KWI: It is difficult in Michigan to fully comprehend the devastation that happened just in NJ.  The number of houses destroyed or severely damaged were 10 times that the number lost to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita combined in the Gulf.  It is a misconception that the homes damaged were mostly second/Summer homes.  Where my dad lives, many people are year-round residents, so making people understand that was difficult. I had to rely on others for the essays from NJ, and many of them were in areas of devastation, so it was difficult to get some of the essays in a timely manner.  However, we did get them and were able to publish the book.

MANA: Were people willing to purchase the book because it was a fundraiser or because they knew the students who wrote the essays?
KWI: Most people bought the book as a fundraiser; although, we had some buy it for both the fundraising reason and because they knew kids who had essays in it.  Several were donated to school classrooms or school libraries.

MANA: Did sales of the book meet or exceed your expectation?
KWI: Sales of the book did exceed my expectations.  I thought maybe we could sell the first 50 to pay for the printing and then possibly sell 50 more.  I didn’t think we could have given over $1,000!  People who bought the book even sent in donations above and beyond the cost.

MANA: Did proceeds of the book help those in need?
KWI: Yes the proceeds went to those in need, and still are.  My family went to NJ to visit my dad this summer.  The devastation is still more than evident (sand in the streets, houses with no foundation still there, empty lots, houses full of mold and infested, etc…).  The state of NJ has started a relief fund for those who want to rebuild, but most have either started the rebuilding, started renovating/elevating, or have moved on and will not rebuild.  

MANA: Have you ever done a book fundraiser like this before?
KWI: No, I have never done anything like this before.  It was an interesting experience, and I was thrilled with the response both from MANA and from the people who purchased the book.

MANA: Are you still selling copies of the book?
KWI: Yes, we are.  You can get them through MANA.  They make great holiday gifts and stocking stuffers!

MANA: Why should people buy the book?
KWI:
As I have said above, there is still a great need there.  Many are just starting the rebuild after months of red tape, and many are starting to fill their newly rebuilt homes. The money goes to help with the little things that add up to costing a whole lot of money.  Things like towels, sheets, pantry staples, small appliances, kids’ toys. These are things you don’t think of, but they are still needed.  


Click HERE to purchase Superstorm Sandy: In the Eyes of the Children.

Click HERE to find out about "Create a Book"© Fundraiser.

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