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Gurnee church members load up for Hurricane Sandy victims

A truck volunteers are taking donations thwill be driven out East for victims Hurricane Sandy Gurnee Community Church Old GrAvenue.

A truck and volunteers are taking donations that will be driven out East for victims of Hurricane Sandy at Gurnee Community Church on Old Grand Avenue. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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Want to help?

The deadline for dropping off donations for victims of Hurricane Sandy is 9 p.m. today, Dec. 11, at the Gurnee Community Church, 4555 Old Grand Ave., Gurnee. Items needed include clean clothes, shoes and boots, ready-to-eat things like energy bars, diapers, hygeine products, bleach wipes and construction-grade garbage bags.

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Updated: February 9, 2013 2:08AM

GURNEE — This is how they do it at Gurnee Community Church.

One helping hand at a time.

Fae Cole stopped by the church on Old Grand Avenue on Monday night to drop off some items for a box truck full of supplies that are going to the East Coast where Hurricane Sandy’s destruction is still being felt.

“I’ve been trying to clear out stuff I don’t need,” said Cole, a senior citizen. “I had a number of scarves and gloves, and it’s easy to give them up for a good cause. Then I just picked up some toilet paper and toothpaste. It wasn’t a lot, but it helps the cause.”

Retiree Frank Gattolin first came up with the idea a few weeks ago when reading about how there were still a lot of people in need in New Jersey and New York. “People were still having a hard time of it,” said the 69-year-old from Gurnee.

He made a contact in Oakland, N.J., where they have a clearing house that funnels supplies to harder hit areas. The list of what was needed was long: Clothing, personal hygiene items, diapers, Depends, canned goods, ready-to-eat foods, bleach, batteries, shoes of all sizes.

“We’re grateful for anything we can get,” said Gattolin, who will be driving with fellow church member, Bob Long. Long said it was an idea that Frank couldn’t get out of the back of his mind. “He came up after service and said, ‘We should take a truckload of stuff to the East Coast,’ and I said, ‘Oh, boy,’” Long said with a laugh.

“He just saw a need where no one was stepping up and doing things,” Long said.

Once Betty Basarich, missions and outreach chairwoman, got involved, Long said the effort “just went viral.”

A charity in Zion called Love Inc., that the Gurnee church works with, came up with a lot of goods like clothing and medical supplies, including crutches and wheelchairs, disinfectants and clothing. The Dollar Junction donated boxes so church volunteers could sort the various donations and mark the boxes for easy sorting. Gurnee American Legion Post 771 donated a number of personal care items.

Gattolin called around for a truck and found a good deal with Enterprise in Mount Prospect. He was wondering how he would cover that cost when he decided to use the money he had been saving for a top-of-the-line shotgun.

Then to his surprise, Enterprise called him back and gave him an even better deal in return for picking up a van out east and bringing it back to Illinois. “I thought that was just outstanding,” said Gattolin, adding that God can work in mysterious ways. “I don’t think it was coincidence.”

“Then Betty worked her magic,” which started out with the church newsletter and her Facebook page and then the village put the information in their bulletin and the Lake County News-Sun. And the people responded.

“We’re on our way. There are a lot of helping hands involved in this,” he said.

The 400-plus member church may be small, but they think big. They served Thanksgiving dinner to hundreds of sailors from Naval Station Great Lakes on Thanksgiving Day. Last year, they celebrated their 150th anniversary. “We try to give everyone an opportunity to share their passion and gifts. It’s been a community blessing,” said Basarich.

Gattolin and Long said they are going to take it easy driving. They both met three years ago during cardiac rehabilitation and since they are both retired, there is no rush. But they still would like more donations.

“It’s people helping people, Americans helping Americans,” he said.

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