BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Donations Help Rebuild Jersey Shore Boardwalks

By Lauren Wanko
NJ Today

“Let the Memories Carry on,” ”Our Summer Place,” ”Lava Strong 2013” — they’re all personal messages now engraved in Lavallette’s new boardwalk planks.

“You’ve left your mark in this town in such a positive way that I think that only good can come of it,” said Lavallette Buy a Board Project Coordinator Joanne LaCicero.

For $250, donors can customize a board and request its location. Lavallette’s symbol, the seagull, is etched in every plank. All the proceeds go toward the cost of rebuilding 4,000 feet of boardwalk.

So far more than 1,100 boards have been sold in Lavallette. That equals $228,000, which goes directly to the borough, and there’s a good chance those donations could cover the borough’s cost of the boardwalk reconstruction.

That’s because FEMA will cover 75 percent of the $1.3 million project and Lavallette will cover the rest — $325,000. Donations continue to pour in. As many as 150 orders are placed every week.

“I think when you have a tragedy such as the superstorm that hit us, I think they want to help and heal and this is a very personal way for their healing,” LaCicero said.

The boardwalk messages are especially meaningful to Lavallette resident Harry Dews. He also bought a board.

“It takes a long time to walk the boards because you’re looking at all the engravings on them,” Dews said.

LaCicero credits Belmar for the fundraising idea. Belmar launched its own Buy a Board campaign back in December. So far the borough’s raised more than $600,000.

“Once we started this, we thought maybe we’d get $100,000. The overwhelming generosity from people in New Jersey is incredible,” said Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty.

Donation amounts are divided into seven categories ranging from $25 to what’s called the Big Kahuna at $5,000. On this day, Belmar Elementary School students finally nabbed that title after months of collecting, painting and selling seashells.

“They’re a dollar a shell,” explained second-grader Julie Nicolay.

“You wanna hear something? People paid like, $20,” said third-grader Hannah Doherty.

“It’s good to know that the shell kids and I, we all helped make that boardwalk,” added third-grader Emma Rokoszak.

“We’re helping our town and the people and the citizens of the town,” said Carly Torsiello.

“If we didn’t help the boardwalk, the boardwalk would never be finished,” said kindergartener Claire Doherty.

The donors’ names will be displayed at the beach entrance of their choice if their donations are submitted by April 30. The plaques will be displayed this summer. Back in Lavallette, LaCircero is determined to sell every board on the boardwalk — all 10,600 planks. The borough will accept donations until the end of the year.