When Jen Corey heard of the many South Shore residents who lost their homes, cars and belongings during Hurricane Sandy, she knew she had to do something to help.
The 25-year-old West Islip native, who lives and works as a project manager in Washington, D.C., used her networking skills to hastily organize a fundraiser and clothing drive for storm victims in West Islip and Lindenhurst.
When the storm hit on Oct. 29, Corey called her mother in West Islip every half hour to check up. Though their home was spared major damage, Sandy's wreckage for her hometown neighbors weighed heavily on her mind.
"I felt really helpless [being in D.C.]," she told Patch. "I knew I wanted to do something, but I didn't know what. So my friend suggested putting together a fundraiser."
Corey is no stranger to community service. As Miss District of Columbia 2009, she worked as the local ambassador for the Children's Miracle Network. She has also served on the board of two D.C.-based nonprofits.
She immediately reached out to her friends, colleagues and classmates, encouraging them to donate items or attend the fundraiser--and to bring a friend. She also used social media to spread the word, and soon local bloggers followed suit. Within 48 hours, the fundraiser was organized.
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Between 50 and 60 people attended the event on Thursday, Nov. 8 at Co Co. Sala, a popular D.C. restaurant and lounge. In total, Corey raised $1,600 for the victims, and collected two cars worth of donations. She brought an additional car load with her when she returned to West Islip for Thanksgiving.
Corey's friend David Simnick, Co-Founder of Soap Box Soaps, also donated 100 bars of soap to hand out to displaced residents.
During the holiday, Corey and her mom, who grew up in Lindenhurst, headed to the hard-hit village with the supplies. She saw the impact the donations had on locals immediately.
"It was nice to see people taking my donations right then, in front of me," said Corey. "It was overwhelming for my mom and I."
Weeks after the fundraiser, Corey is still receiving emails from individuals looking to help out. Currently, she's directing donations to the West Islip Lionheart Foundation.