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Shelter Brings Comfort to Residents Without Power

Nearly a week in the dark, many pleased to get a hot meal and shower at Montville Township High School.

Whether they came for a hot plate of ziti or to watch the N.Y. Giants, Montville residents seemed to find comfort at the shelter set up at Montville Township High School Sunday night.

The shelter, which welcomed more than 640 people since Friday, had 15 residents sleep overnight on Saturday and several overnight reservations by 6 p.m. Sunday. Nancy Mertz and Chris Ziolowski, two township social services workers with the senior and youth divisions, organized and helped run the shelter through the weekend.

"We've had 640 people that have either showered, charged up, gotten something to eat or just warmed up," Mertz said. "That's what we're here for."

In addition to Mertz and Ziolowski, the shelter was staffed with Aramark food service employees, as hired by the Montville Township Board of Education, Montville Township police officers and township employees. Mayor Tim Braden also visited residents at the shelter and said food had been served through the weekend after being donated by several local businesses and religious organizations.

"They serve hot breakfast, lunch and dinner," he said.

Tom Tassone, 62, of Towaco, has visited the shelters the township set up, including the one at the Pine Brook firehouse, for the past several days. His family has been without power since 4 p.m. on Monday.

"I think everyone working at the shelters has done a wonderful job helping people during a storm like this," he said.

Tassone said he has mostly enjoyed being able to visit the shelter at the high school so that he could take a hot shower. Sunday night he came to watch the football game but at home, he has been listening to the radio with little else to keep busy.

Ina Greenspan, a teacher at Montville Township High School, was visiting the shelter with her mother as well Sunday night. Earlier that day she had spent some time at the Montville Township Library which opened Friday for the first time since the storm. Greenspan also said she was impressed with the hard work of the individuals working the shelter.

"I think the ladies in the cafeteria are absolutely wonderful," she said.

Greenspan, who has had a full week off from teaching as the schools have been closed, said she thinks getting back to work, as expected by the end of the week, will be an adjustment for students, especially without power.

"I teach a Life Skills class and I know for those kids it's going to be difficult getting back," she said.

However, Greenspan said she felt something positive also came out of a week without power after Tropical Storm Sandy brought down power lines throughout the township.

"I think it's brought the community together," she said.

Tassone's daughter was a student of Greenspan's and both families were sitting together at a table inside the high school cafeteria Sunday night.

Mertz said if the schools do open this week, the shelter will remain open.

"We'll be here, in some capacity, for warming and charging until the power comes back on," Mertz said.

Mayor Tim Braden said the sheltering area would be separated from the area where students are and showers would likely only be available at night once school resumes.

Braden said the shelter has been able to feed everyone who has walked in entirely off of donated food. In addition to local businesses, residents have also made food donations. Those wishing to donate to the shelter should contact Mertz directly, as the needs change on a day-by-day basis. Mertz can be reached at nmertz@montvillenj.org.

Residents who want to take advantage of the shelter do not need to call in advance, but will need to fill out an informational form upon entering.

Read all Montville Patch Sandy coverage here.

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