Westerville News & Public Opinion

Community lends aid to Hurricane Sandy refugees


For the past three weeks, Westerville resident Grecia Bacigalupo has filled her house with five more family members -- her brother, Alfonso Rojas, his wife and their three children, ages 15, 12 and 8.

The family, whose New Jersey home was lost when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast Oct. 29, relocated to Westerville as a way of starting over, Bacigalupo said.

"They just moved with nothing here," she said.

The family has been receiving some help from the Westerville Area Resource Ministry, the Westerville Church of the Nazarene and community members who heard their story and felt compelled to help.

A group of Westerville businesses held a fundraiser earlier this week to collect nonperishable food and money to help the family with Christmas gifts and other needs.

"I was putting together a fundraiser for WARM in the first place, but then when I heard about the family, we decided to do it for both," said Kathleen Short, assistant to ReMax Impact's Jamie Maze. "They don't have anything."

Through Wednesday, Dec. 12, Short and Maze will continue to collect monetary donations or donations of gift cards to stores such as Walmart, Target and Meijer, to help the Rojas family.

"We're trying to find them a place to live for the next 12 months," Short said.

"We're hoping to be able to pull that off through ReMax," she said.

WARM's ultimate goal is to find a job for Rojas and his wife so they can support the family over the long term, said Cheryl Wooten, WARM development and communications manager.

"We want them to be blessed with it; if someone knows of a job, we'll meet with the folks. That's the other side of the coin of what we do," Wooten said.

"While it's very generous to obtain housing for a year, and that will help keep them stabilized, that year goes quickly."

Finding a job has been difficult thus far for Rojas, Bacigalupo said.

"He looked for a job, but he couldn't find a job here," she said.

Rojas has been staying during the week with a cousin in Dayton to search for a job there, Bacigalupo said, while the rest of the family remains in Westerville, where the children have been attending school.

Those who are interested in helping the family can contact WARM at 614-899-0196.

The outpouring of support for the family so far has been wonderful, Short and Wooten said.

"There are just multiple people coming together to help them out," Wooten said.

"It's just a fabulous opportunity for our community to help someone so far reaching."