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Fort Lee Storm Relief Drive Nets Two Vanloads of Donations

The relief effort was originally intended to be part of the Fort Lee Lady Bridgemen volleyball team’s first home playoff match since the 1990s. The girls won the match, and the drive grew to include all of Fort Lee’s schools.

The Fort Lee Lady Bridgemen volleyball team held its first home state playoff match since 1996 Thursday, beating Lakeland, 2-1, even after dropping the first game.

But the event was more than just a volleyball match; it doubled as a disaster relief drive in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Originally organized by Fort Lee freshman volleyball coach James Puliatte, who urged people to bring relief items for storm victims to the pre-match rally, the donation drive grew to include all of Fort Lee’s schools, and the result was two full vans of goods and supplies that were sent to Jersey City.

“I was truly proud to see how our students stepped up [Thursday] and all the administration that was at the game supporting them,” Puliatte said in an email after the match, which had to be moved from Wednesday to Thursday because of the snowstorm that hit after Sandy. “I don't think it could [have gone] any better.”

Fort Lee Board of Education member John Bang, who participated in the drive, said, “Big things come from little beginnings.”

At the Fort Lee BOE meeting Monday, Bang talked about the success of the drive.

“We tried to obviously help people in need in Fort Lee if possible, but in Fort Lee, we kind of got back on our feet,” Bang said. “We sent it down to Jersey City because they are really suffering out there, and they sent me a very, very warm letter of thanks.”

He added, “Their food bank was empty, and we pretty much stocked it up. It just goes to show you the kind of people we have in this town.”

Puliatte, who sent out emails on Tuesday and Wednesday last week seeking support on short notice for the drive that ultimately took place on Thursday, was more than a little excited about the response, saying the event made him “proud to be a Bridgeman.”

Puliatte also called the fitting state playoff win “an exciting match for our girls.”

“Even after losing the first game, they just kept fighting, never gave up and showed that true Fort Lee toughness and spirit,” he said.

John Bang November 13, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Also assisting with this vast undertaking was FL boy's soccer coach Demba Mane, Max Almenas and his son, my kids, a small army of Fort Lee High School students led by FLHSBand Drum Major Ed Ma and Jiho Kim (who won the county film festival). Also Fort Lee Board of Education Trustee Peter Suh who offered us the space where we collected, stored and sorted the donated goods (and then we tricked him into volunteering to help move the goods unto the truck making dozens of trips up and down the stairs). And a tip of the hat to Paul Umrichin who inspired much of what happened with his online call for action.
James Puliatte November 14, 2012 at 01:37 AM
I was really glad I could help out with this and it turned out better than I think any of those involved could imagine with the quick turn around. I have to give a lot of credit to Sandi Klein from school #3 who really came to me to make this into a an event that all the schools could participate in not just a volleyball fundraiser, as well as Sandy Kim of school 4. Also, I have to say School 3 required an entire van for only their donations! We had to drop everything off that we had collected and come back for just their stuff which barely fit! Great job Fort Lee!
Utente November 15, 2012 at 05:42 AM
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