By Pam Teel
Imagine no heat, water, or electricity in your home during these cold winter days. It seems unthinkable in this bedroom community that anyone would have to live like that. Imagine the unthinkable happening because you didn’t have enough money to pay the bills to keep the basic essentials of everyday life going for you. That’s exactly what happened to one Millstone Township family, leaving a mother and her 20-year-old son getting by for three and a half years without heat, water, or electricity.
After losing her father in 2012, Cynthia inherited his house, but it came with a price, unpaid bills. One of which included a $5,400.00 utility bill. Since then, Cynthia had been trying to catch up and repay the utility bill so they could get the electricity turned back on. She does have a job working full time at a Senior Center, where she assists and provides care to others, but her income is barely enough to cover her taxes and put food on the table. Imagine having to walk to a neighbor’s home to fill up jugs of water just so you could bath and brush your teeth. Imagine not having any water to wash your dirty clothes.
To make things even worse, Cynthia’s son was recently let go from his job. He worked at a local hotel and when the manager changed his shift, he tried to explain to him that he couldn’t work that shift because he had to take his mother to and from work. The manager didn’t seem to care.
When Township resident, Joe Buffa, heard the story of the family, he realized that this family didn’t live that far away from him. He knew that he had to do something to help. Together, along with another township resident, Brian Lorenco, a gofundme site was set up. Their goal was to make enough money to settle the unpaid utility bill and to buy a new furnace /water heater.
Their goal was met all within a 24-hour period. The men were in talks with JCP&L to work on restoring the service and getting an electrical inspector in to check everything out in hopes that soon the family would get their electric back on and perhaps their dignity.
Brian had always told people that the thing he loved most living in Millstone was that there was such a feeling of community. He loves how he and his friends help watch and raise each other’s children, whether it is through sharing good times on the sports fields or at each other’s barbeques. In Brian’s own words, “Millstone is a community that feels like one big family.” He was raised to remember that family comes first and when your family needs help, you do anything that you could to help them. That’s exactly what Brian did.
Brian and Joe reached out to the community and in less than twenty-four hours they raised over $9,600.00 dollars to help the family get back on their feet. Their response wasn’t just for money donations. People in town started reaching out with job offers for the 20-year-old son. One resident offered Christmas dinner at their house and another resident offered free haircuts at her hair salon. Frank from Vesuvio’s Restaurant offered the son a flexible part time job and a gift card. Another resident even offered to wash their clothes for them. To top that off, a local electrical company offered to stop by and check their electrical panels for free.
The outpouring of donations filled everyone’s hearts with joy just knowing that this family will soon have some sense of normality back in their lives.
Update straight from Brian, “This just keeps getting better. After seeing my post this morning…I received a call from Stephen Novack, owner of New Egypt Oil, who didn’t ask me…but TOLD me he was on his way with a truck full of oil for their oil tank.
After 4 hours of electrical work by Michael Zachary Hammerstone’s crew from Hammer Electric, the repairs were made. A text to Town Council Members Mike Kuzinsky and Fiore Masci got the inspector to the house within minutes and I’m thrilled to say, gave us our approval. Joseph Buffa of Admiral Water has been at the house all morning supervising the work as well as greeting the DOZENS of residents who have been coming by all day dropping off food, water, clothing, and gift cards.
JCP&L is on their way to FLIP THE SWITCH, and complete this Christmas Miracle!!! We will update everyone on the next steps we will be taking to make some needed repairs to the house itself and the appliances.”
It’s amazing how in such a short time, the people in town who read Brian’s letter quickly responded to his call for help. It shows you the power of this community and how proud that everyone involved must feel in working together to help this family out.
Thank you Joe and Brian for being such great Pillars of the Community!