Mashpee Woman Finds Purpose In Hurricane Sandy Relief
By: Elsa H. Partan
They cry. They cheer. They say, “God bless you,” and they call her amazing. The people of Staten Island and the Far Rockaways who receive food, water, and supplies from Mashpee resident Jenny L. Jordan have many ways of expressing their thanks, and all of them are emotional.
“You see the relief washing over their faces,” she said in an interview this week. “It’s amazing to be a part of that. This is my purpose in life.”
This weekend marks Ms. Jordan’s 16th trip to deliver supplies to areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Ms. Jordan, who will turn 35 on Sunday and has four children, started collecting and delivering items soon after the October 29 storm and has not stopped. As the storm’s impact fades from the public eye, it has not faded for Ms. Jordan. There is still so much need, she said.
“There are people living in tents in the snow,” she said. “There are people with no heat and no hot water.”
Her first trip to the Far Rockaways, in November, was a startling experience.
“It was the most horrible smell that I’ve ever smelled,” she recalled.
Disrupted sewer lines and rotting food made for an unwelcome stench. Police tried to turn her back.
“They are animals in there,” she recalled one officer saying. He told her the police would not go in to help her if she was attacked.
“I’ve been very, very poor,” she said. “To hear that they are animals…these people are so desperate.”
The hardest time in her life was when she was 22, had a 2-year-old son, and was pregnant with her second son. She left her first husband mid-winter and became homeless, seeking shelter at Safe Harbor in Hyannis.
“That was a really tough time,” she said. “I remember my son wanted a 25-cent lollipop and I couldn’t afford it.”
She worked jobs in waitressing, teaching Latin dance, and house painting, eventually working as a certified nursing assistant for 15 years. Now she is home with her children. She wants to give back whatever she can, she said.
“If I have enough for today, I’m okay,” she said. “After all, I might not be here tomorrow.”
The task she has picked for herself is time-consuming. She calls her contacts in New York, who go house to house gathering a wish list from residents in affected areas. To collect the needed supplies, she rents a truck and sits in front of a store to ask for donations. She has spent $4,000 on truck rentals, exhausting her savings account.
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow she will be standing outside of Home Depot in Hyannis from 9 AM to 9 PM to collect donations. She typically drives the truck to The Rockaways or Staten Island to deliver the supplies, sleeps in the truck, and drives back. She has had many helpers along the way, she said.
One of those helpers is Lori A. Stetson of Yarmouth.
“The girl has a heart of gold,” Ms. Stetson said of Ms. Jordan. The 43-year-old mother of three started collecting donations and driving down to New York with Ms. Jordan in mid-November.
“She’s very fun-loving. She’s silly but goal-oriented,” Ms. Stetson said. “She has a fun way of trying to reach the goals. If you’re not going to have fun, what’s the point? That’s her attitude. She thinks there’s always something good in every situation, you just have to find it.”
“Jenny’s got awesome works,” said Joel M. Bauza, the pastor of Calvary Church on East 174th Street in the Bronx. Mr. Bauza’s church is one still doing direct outreach to hurricane victims. He is a contact for Ms. Jordan when she needs to know where to deliver supplies. The Bronx was not hit by the storm, so parishioners are helping other parts of the state, Mr. Bauza explained.
“Jenny has been in trucks, her toes turning blue, waiting for people to donate goods,” he said. “She is going over and beyond the call of duty. She motivates me.”
Ms. Jordan said she has received considerable support from her husband, from whom she is separated. David Jordan, who works at MJ Nardone Carpentry, helps with the four children when she is away, she said. Her children are ages 6, 8, 12, and 15.
“He takes care of the bills,” she said. “And if the children need something at school, he’s right there.”
To Ms. Jordan, New York is close enough to be her neighborhood, she said.
“It’s only a few hundred miles,” she said. “It could have been us. If it had been us, all of our coastal areas would have been destroyed. It doesn’t take much to do the right thing.”
Leave a Reply
In order to comment you need to be logged in.