At the time Superstorm Sandy hit the coast of New Jersey in 2012, Nancy DiPasquale, her husband Henry and their son Colin lived in Monmouth County, about 40 minutes away from where significant damage occurred.
With so many families losing all their belongings, the DiPasquale’s decided to donate toys, books and supplies to families in need. Nancy and her husband put the word out on social media to see if others wanted to donate. After collecting two carloads of items, the DiPasquale’s did it again the following weekend. The president of Bohren’s Moving Company offered to donate a tractor-trailer to haul everything, and that was the start of the Tractor-Trailer Challenge.
The DiPasquale family hosted its fourth challenge on Sept. 25 and 26 in the parking lot of the Moorestown Mall. This year’s event was a disaster relief supply drive for Hurricane Ida victims in Louisiana. The donations will be driven to Houma, Louisiana, and dropped off at a civic center where families will be able to pick up anything they need, including much-needed cleaning supplies, paper towels and nonperishable foods.
Carrying the items was a 53-foot tractor-trailer donated by Bohren’s Moving Company of Robbinsville, and the parking lot space was donated by the Moorestown Mall.
“People come in, they drive through, and they literally just pull up their car and we have volunteers go to the car and take the items from the car and they put them on the truck,” said Nancy DiPasquale. “They don’t even have to get out of the car. It’s a completely contactless drop-off. Once the truck is filled, that’s when the truck leaves to head all the way down to Louisiana.”
A year and a half ago, the DiPasquale’s expanded the Tractor-Trailer initiative into a nonprofit, the Local Acts of Kindness Foundation. After realizing they had different ideas for helping others, the family knew it was the right decision.
“It’s a human need to feel like you’re connected, connected to your community, connected to your neighbor, helping other neighbors whether you’re near or far, and so it serves so many human needs at the same time as helping someone else,” Nancy said.
The Local Acts of Kindness Foundation has eight programs, four kindness challenges and four kindness programs centered around bringing the community together. Along with the Tractor-Trailer Challenge, other efforts are the Trim-A-Tree Challenge and the Socks in Box Challenge, a donation of over 300 socks to Afghan refugees who arrived in New Jersey with only the clothes on their backs.
“That’s how generous the community really is,” said Nancy. “People want to give, and they want to help.”