And they’re off! Road trip to New Jersey begins

Courtesy of Nancy Ehlenbeck

All loaded up to drive across the country to New Jersey are sisters Sandra Fleming, left, and Mary Jo Rakowski. Local residents collected cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items and pet food and suppliess as part of the women’s Joisey Girls 4 Jersey Shore Relief project. There’s just enough room left in the van for them. They have connected with an organization in Point Pleasant, N.J., which will help them distribute the goods.

What they’re going to find when they arrive in New Jersey is anybody’s guess, but Mary Jo Rakowski and Sandra Fleming are trying to prepare for utter devastation in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

The sisters took off Thursday on a road trip to New Jersey.

They’ll be taking with them the prayers and concrete support of La Plata County, in the form of a fully packed 15-passenger van full of cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items and pet supplies.

It’s all part of their campaign “Joisey Girls 4 Jersey Shore Relief.” The women set up collection points around Bayfield and Durango, collecting enough to fill the van, with just enough room left for them to make the cross- country drive.

Fleming and Rakowski also held a fundraiser at the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks Lodge 507 on Dec. 1.

While it was “lightly attended,” as Rakowski put it, they still managed to raise nearly $3,500 for the American Red Cross’ Superstorm Sandy Relief Fund. They’ll be talking about the fun they had for the first thousand miles or so.

DJ CodeStar (also known as Cody NicholReimer) didn’t just play a song list that included New Jersey natives Sinatra, Springsteen and Bon Jovi (they don’t really need first names, do they?), he managed to out-Joisey Bruce Ehlenbeck in the Jersey accent contest.

Contestants had to say four phrases: Did you eat? Fuhgeddaboutit. Do you want a piece of me? And, what exit on the Parkway? After a tie at the top, NicholReimer took it home with Why don’t you go get me a cup of coffee? (The word “coffee” is a true test of one’s Jersey worthiness.)

Judges and New Jersey natives Marc Goldfarb and Mike Crouchelli had their work cut out for them, with third place going to “Judy from New Jersey.” Wait, doesn’t that make her a ringer?

NicholReimer took home some White Castle burgers for his first place finish; Ehlenbeck may have enjoyed his “meat product” Taylor-ham roll; and “Judy from New Jersey” scored Rakowski’s homemade “true Sloppy Joe,” a sandwich that in no way resembles the tomato saucy hamburger dish served in cafeterias and at home by moms everywhere.

According to Rakowski, a New Jersey Sloppy Joe starts with three pieces of Jewish rye bread. The first layer is ham and Swiss cheese. The second layer is salami and coleslaw with a special dressing. Interesting, and I don’t mean that in the way our mothers taught us to say it when we couldn’t think of anything nice to say.

The ladies served finger foods like mini-quiches and egg rolls, and Jenny Mund, dressed as Santa’s little helper after helping her father (as Old Saint Nick) bring Christmas to Bayfield’s children, provided decadent sweets, including luscious chocolate cupcakes, pineapple upside-down cake and crockpot-made sweet nuts.

The women are headed to Point Pleasant, where they’ve made contact with an organization that’s already set up to distribute supplies to residents working on reclaiming their homes and makeshift animal shelters taking care of homeless pets.

If you want to follow their journey, Rakowski will be blogging at as they go to help our countrymen in a dark hour.

I love it when individuals take it upon themselves to make a difference.

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Wishing extra hard for snow this weekend as they blow out their birthday candles are Jim Beatty, Nancy Stohl, Jim Aubrey, Tim Spishock, Kate Uebersax, Carly Copeland, Ruth Dickson, Alex Pinkerton, Susan Pugh, Pam Turpin, Natalie Biery, Sam Choate, Hazel Cline, Donna Ninde, Ryan Szura, Dick Perry, B.J. Pierce, David Golub, Rob Kolter and Jan Larowe.

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Congrats go out to the St. Columba School students who created and sold Christmas cards for Hurricane Sandy Relief. They sold out, and all the businesses where they sold them matched the sales. So $2,000 will be split among the two designated schools and the Catholic Charities Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.

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As we approach the end of 2012 – but not the end of the world, because a group of archaeologists this year found a well-preserved Mayan temple that said this was just the end of a cycle, not the world – many local nonprofits are asking for the final gifts of the year.

Manna Soup Kitchen is holding its Ho-Ho-Ho No Go event again, when supporters pay for the privilege of staying home in their jammies and drinking hot chocolate instead of getting gussied up and going to a fundraiser.

If you want to stay home on Christmas, you, too, may get out of attending a nonevent while helping our most fragile neighbors eat in 2013. Send your tax-deductible donation to Manna Soup Kitchen, P.O. Box 1196, Durango, CO 81302.

And while I’m on the subject of Manna, they’re scaling back a little on Christmas this year and serving a traditional dinner at the soup kitchen for their clients.

In preparation, the soup kitchen is looking for donations of new toys for the little ones and volunteers to help wrap gifts.

Email Audrey Werner at or call her at 385-5095, ext. 2 to help.

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The American Association of University Women is holding its own Holiday Un-Party to benefit its new Fort Lewis College Cheryl Jackson AAUW Scholarship. AAUW already has scholarships in the names of two great ladies, Virginia Shoser and Janet Watson, with this third dedicated in the name of a woman who got involved in the local chapter soon after moving here.

Jackson, who had a long career as a teacher, has been through one hideous health crisis after another this past 15 months, and I’m so glad AAUW is honoring her in this way while she’s still around to enjoy it.

Once endowed, the Cheryl Jackson Scholarship will be used to help a nontraditional student get a degree. There is no better way to commemorate a life of learning than by helping another woman have the same.

Checks may be sent to the AAUW Durango Branch for Cheryl Jackson Scholarship to Grace Deltscheff, Branch Treasurer, 56 Red Cliffs Road, Durango, CO 81301.

I know Jackson was active in many other organizations as well, and y’all are welcome to join in the giving.

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Enjoying a world full of poinsettias for their anniversaries are Steve and Aimee Martin, Clark and Brigitte Cunningham and Jim and Emily Robertson.

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