The season of giving
Seeing town’s Sandy response, one philanthropist pitched in
by Dean DeChiaro
Reporter staff writer
Dec 23, 2012 | 6496 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
GOOD SAMARITAN – Wendy Kelman-Neu has been active with Sandy relief all around the tri-state area, but she said that nowhere has she seen a response quite like Weehawken’s, inspiring her to make a $4,000 donation to the Webster School’s Breakfast with Santa event. Proceeds from the event were donated to the Weehawken & You Sandy Relief Fund.
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For Wendy Kelman-Neu, the plight of Hurricane Sandy victims around the tri-state area was not something to be ignored. The executive vice president of the Hugo Neu Corporation, a New York-based recycling and green technology firm, Kelman-Neu has been involved with various charities for years, often making donations to animal shelters and organizations that provide educational benefits to impoverished children. So when the storm hit, she knew that she could help.

On the other side of the Hudson River, Robin Murphy’s home in The Shades, a heavily damaged neighborhood in Weehawken, was nearly destroyed. Despair was in high supply in the days after the storm, but in Weehawken, the town’s response was above and beyond what its residents had hoped for. Murphy happened to work at one of the animal shelters funded by Kelman-Neu and her husband John, Companion Animal Placement in Hoboken, and was a personal friend of the family.

“After the storm, Wendy had been out to Red Hook, she was in the Rockaways, and on Staten Island, and in all those places people were having a terrible time,” said Murphy. “They weren’t even able to get any information, let alone assistance. I think she was very affected by what she saw.”

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“By all of my estimations, Weehawken is an amazing community.”- Wendy Kelman-Neu

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Kelman-Neu also spoke to Murphy about her experience in Weehawken, expecting to hear a infrastructural horror story similar to the ones she had been witnessing throughout the area. Kelman-Neu was surprised when Murphy had only the highest praise for the township’s response to the storm.

“I spoke to her several times a day and, obviously, she was traumatized because she essentially lost her home,” said Kelman-Neu, “but she was also in awe of the help and support that was coming from the community and the mayor. That was really what drove me to want to help.”

The Webster connection

So Kelman-Neu, unsure of who she could make a donation to, contacted another Weehawkenite she knew, Webster School parent Claudia Gutierrez, who is involved with the school’s Parent Teacher Participation Association (PTPA). Gutierrez explained that a portion of the proceeds from the PTPA’s annual Breakfast with Santa celebration would be donated to the Weehawken & You Sandy Relief Fund, and Kelman-Neu knew that she had found her charity.

After writing the PTPA a check for $4,000, Kelman-Neu came down with a bad case of bronchitis and was unable to attend the event, but she said this week that she was confident her donation would go to help the people of Weehawken who needed it most.

“I have a few other friends who live in the town, and I have heard nothing from anybody except positive, amazing things,” she said. “The town’s response was really quite extraordinary. By all of my estimations, Weehawken is an amazing community.”

Helen Johnson, the president of Webster School’s PTPA, was reluctant to comment specifically about Kelman-Neu’s donation, but she did say that it allowed the PTPA to increase its own donation to $3,000.

“It was a really amazing donation,” Johnson said at the event, which took place two Saturdays ago.

The event, Webster School’s biggest of the year, turned out to be a success, hosting nearly 700 people and around 300 children, every single one of whom sat on Santa’s lap.

After learning of Kelman-Neu’s donation, Mayor Richard Turner said that it was the type of gift that makes both the United States and New Jersey a wonderful place to live.

“This type of donation, especially at this time of year, and given what our residents have faced since the storm, it’s a tremendous reminder that Americans – and especially people from New Jersey – are generous, generous people,” Turner said. “On behalf of the Township Council and the people of Weehawken, I would like to thank Ms. Kelman-Neu.”

Dean DeChiaro may be reached at deand@hudsonreporter.com

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