The Saker family, which runs and operates 31 Saker ShopRites in New Jersey, has pledged $200,000 to several Monmouth County charities focused on helping the community recover from Hurricane Sandy.
The beneficiaries include the Union Beach Disaster Relief Fund, Catholic Charities of Monmouth County, Project Paul in Keansburg, the RAINE Foundation based in Hazlet, the Mental Health Association in New Jersey, and The Middletown Disaster Relief Fund (MDRF).
The MDRF will distribute $50,000 in supermarket gift cards, said Fund Chairman Tony Fiore.
"Of all the towns that got walloped, Middletown got walloped probably the hardest," said Saker, a township resident, at a luncheon with organization representatives in the Route 35 Middletown store mezzanine on Friday. "They've got the most displaced people of any town, in this eastern area. More than Keyport, more than Union Beach, believe it or not."
Deputy Mayor Stephanie Murray said that close to 1,400 people are affected in Middletown's hard-hit communities of North Middletown, Leonardo, Belford, and Port Monmouth.
Saker praised the community organizations, most of which have been receiving ShopRite donations since Sandy hit on Oct. 29 or before.
The RAINE Foundation is one of these organizations and will receive $10,000 in ShopRite gift cards from the Saker familer.
"We are very thankful for the support the Saker family has given us throughout this tragedy," Mike Fabozzi, the Foundation president, said.
Fabozzi explained that the Saker's support goes far beyond the gift cards. During the holiday season, they offered the RAINE Foundation the use of their Route 35 building in Hazlet where the old Childrenswear Centre was located to run their Christmas gift drive.
"That is a Saker building that they extended to us at no cost. They are very generous people who are really concerned about helping people who were affected by Sandy," Fabozzi said. "Not only are we grateful for this donation, we are honored to be considered as a trusted organization by such a highly respected family business."
The store president also gave credit to his own Middletown store associates who came to work in the Middletown stores in those first awful days after the storm, even though some of them had lost their homes, and the local first responders and organizations at the luncheon who immediately stepped up in the chaotic situation "too big for the Red Cross or FEMA."