On January 23rd when most of the eastern seaboard was being hit with a massive storm that brought snow to many areas, Cape May county was slammed with high winds, heavy rain and flooding. Many residents, business owners and leaders of our community felt this storm was worse than we saw with Hurricane Sandy that devastated many shore communities back in 2012. Residents prepared for the storm like we do with all storms that hit our area. We went to the grocery store and loaded up on milk, bread and eggs, we tied down outside items, we moved our cars to higher ground and we patiently waited for the storm to pass through our tiny community, but when many of us woke up on the morning of January 23rd we never expected to see the damage that would change our community forever. On that day flooding was much higher than expected and all the barrier islands suffered damages that nobody predicted and it would put Cape May county on the national news. Now, you would think the reason we were thrown into the spot light was because of the destruction of the storm, but it was because our governor who at the time was running for the Republican nomination for President could not be bothered to leave his campaign trail to help his residents. Instead he chooses to tell the residents of the county that the damage was not that bad and many of you may remember his famous comments made about a mop, but this article is not about him and his lack of leadership, but it is about a small community coming together and helping each other.
I want you to take a moment and think about the things in your house you would want to protect. Of course family and pets would be the first on your list, but think about the things that you have a special attachment to. Would it be pictures? Would it be your child’s christening dress? Would it be your baseball card collection? Well for Melissa from Sea Isle city it was her wedding dress. A wedding dress is a symbol of unity, purity, security and a lifelong loyalty and for Melissa it was much more than just a dress. She said in an interview to the members of Activation React “My wedding day August 21, 2004. The best day of my life as I was about to make a commitment to the man who became my best friend, my companion, my everything.” And on that day in 2004 Melissa and her husband stood in front of family and friends and made a vow to each other in that dress and 13 years later after Melissa and her family saw the damage the storm had caused not only to her community but also to her house and all of her belongings including that dress that she wore 13 years before the storm even changed our community. It was the dress that changed her life. It was the dress she pictured her daughter wearing, it was the dress that her dreams were made of and now it was soaked in watter caused by a storm that no mop would ever clean up. So our tiny community vowed to stand together and not only fix our community, but we vowed to find a way to fix Melissa water soaked dress.
So the team from Activation React which is a non-profit agency that is on a mission to provide ways for people of all ages to lend a helping hand during environmental disasters within the United States . They assist individuals young and old to be proactive in their own neighborhoods using their own talents as a source of creative fundraising for victims of tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and other natural disasters, rather than feeling helpless and distant in times of need decided that they needed to help Melissa with her dress and they turned to social media and posted pictures of the dress and reached out to David’s Bridal for assistance. Unfortunately, they were unable to get this assistance they needed from the Nationwide bridal chain and just like a fairy tale in a Disney movie a fairy godmother came to their assistance. The owner of Court House Cleaners reached out to Activation React after seeing the story on social media and offered to try to clean and fix the damage to the dress. And of course Melissa got her happily ever after when the local cleaners were not only able to fix the dress but they preserved the dress for her so her dress would stand the test of time and any future floods. Elizabeth Gray, who is the director of Activation React said “it was great to see the community come together.” She has also previously stated that “Sharing is caring” and that is what the residents of Cape May county did.
We all took to social media and we shared her story because on that day we said “YES TO THE DRESS”. On that day we were all a bride about to say our vows to the love of our life. On that day we were little girls playing dress up and thinking about our beautiful wedding dress and on that day we were mothers imagining our daughters walking down the aisle to their groom and on that day the residents of Cape May County wanted to be remembered for more than just another shore community who was hit by a storm. We wanted Cape May County to be remembered for more than just a town that got thrown into some political show down. We wanted this community to be remembered for unity, purity, security and a lifelong loyalty.
For more information on how to help Activation React you may contact them directly at http://www.activationreact.org/
Activation React is having a fundraiser on May 20th and 21st where local actors are putting on a production on a Secret Garden: The Musical
Please visit the website for ticket information. All proceeds will directly help the team of Activation React respond to victims of environmental disasters. Please follow the direct link for tickets.