WEEKI WACHEE — The folks in storm-ravaged Monmouth and Ocean counties in New Jersey are about to get a helping hand from residents of Hernando County.
The collection of supplies headed for the storm victims in a 26-foot truck will continue from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today in the parking lot at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, at U.S. 19 and State Road 50.
The public is invited to make donations.
Needed, said organizer Margaret Ayala of Spring Hill, are blankets; warm clothing; basic personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and shampoo; cleaning goods, including buckets, mops, brooms and bleach; batteries of all sizes, but especially C and D, and non-electric gadgets such as can openers.
Boys clothing, from infants through teens, from basic underwear on up, is particularly in need, Ayala added.
Ayala, 51, is a native of Monmouth County, with family members in New Jersey among teams of specially trained first responders who are on the scene of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Tony Rizicka of Spring Hill, also with family in New Jersey and who drives a moving van for a living, has volunteered to take the load of goods north on Sunday.
Said Ayala: "We planned to leave Saturday, but we had such a public outpouring we decided to collect for another day."
Donations were collected Friday at Weeki Wachee Springs and at Grace World Outreach Church in Brooksville.
Ayala said the goal is to reach New Jersey before more expected bad weather arrives early next week.
Ayala's daughter, Terina Ayala, is assisting her mother with the goodwill effort.
If more goods for the storm victims are collected than will fit in the truck, Margaret Ayala said they will be given to another volunteer group that will be collecting furniture and large household items next week at the Airport Industrial Park, south of Brooksville.
Plans for that drive remained incomplete Friday, but are expected to be announced early next week.
For information about today's collection at Weeki Wachee Springs, Margaret Ayala can be reached at (352) 610-3160.
Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected]