Stranded Family Finds Safety at Red Cross Shelter

written by Jane Bowden

The Dinunzio Family feared for their lives when Superstorm Sandy brought a tidal surge to their Seaside Heights, N.J., home last Monday.

Things started to go wrong when they decided to remain in their home during the storm. On the night of October 29, Jan Dinunzio looked out the window into the dark street and noticed water. Within a few minutes, the water, swirling with large pieces of debris, had surrounded the house and inundated the backyard. It continued to rise rapidly.

With the help of their 29-year-old son, Frankie, they decided to evacuate to an apartment at the rear of their property, which was built on a higher level. They had to use a picnic table as a bridge to cross the yard, but when the water reached chest height, it started floating away.

They could only watch and worry once they and their pets had reached the safer place, not knowing how deep the water would eventually get. After what seemed like a long time, it started to subside, but their ordeal was far from over.

Both of their cars had been badly damaged by water, so they were stranded. Because a number of power lines had been damaged and there was a smell of gas, they thought it was safer to stay and wait for help to come.

Manny Dinunzio described the next two nights—with no power or heat, darkness, wet clothes, mud and sand everywhere, no communication and a diminishing stock of edible food—as nothing short of a nightmare.

When the police came knocking at their door and offered transport to the shelter, they did not hesitate to accept. They are now at the Red Cross-run shelter in the Junior Senior High School in Tuckerton, N.J., where Manny Dinunzio said it was a huge relief to feel warm and safe again.

Manny told Red Cross volunteer Jane Bowden from Florida that the reception they got at the shelter had been warm and welcoming, and that he and his family had been overwhelmed with the generosity they had been shown.

“There is no way I can express my gratitude to the Red Cross. It is the best thing I have ever seen and one of the best organizations I have ever come across in my whole life,” he said.

Manny and Jan, both in their early 60s, have been warned by officials that it may be weeks or even months before they can move back into their home. They fear they have lost everything, including the income they normally make over the summer season from renting rooms.

In the midst of these traumatizing events, the Dinunzios forgot about their 38th wedding anniversary—so the Red Cross remedied that as well. The kitchen staff, led by Red Cross worker Carol-Lee Gugliuzzo from the Jersey Coast Chapter, rallied around and created a candlelit dinner for two in the cafeteria, along with specially iced cupcakes, cloth napkins and tablecloth, and a homemade card. They were applauded by nearly 100 other shelter residents.

How You Can Help

The Red Cross response to Sandy is likely to be the largest Red Cross response in the U.S. in the past five years. You can make a donation by going to, dialing 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.


About the American Red Cross: The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit

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