Nine truckloads of donations for survivors of Hurricane Sandy are making their way from West Caldwell to south Jersey Monday morning.
The items were collected by the West Caldwell Police Department for more than a week at a donation center established in a vacant retail store on Bloomfield Avenue.
The trucks were led by a large police escort out of the Essex Mall and were heading down the New Jersey Turnpike early Monday.
In all, some 150 pallets of donations were collected, according to West Caldwell Det. Paul Mazzeo, who co-organized the collection with Sgt. Shawn O'Dowd.
“We were collecting donations until the very last minute when we closed the doors at 8 p.m. last night,” Mazzeo said.
O'Dowd, speaking from one of nine police car escorts from West Caldwell and Montclair, called the response of the community "overwhelming."
New clothing, food, toiletries, household items, toys, diapers and other baby needs were donated throughout the week by area residents and businesses.
The items will be distributed at the Monmouth County SPCA in Eatontown, St. Dominic’s in Brick, St. Paul’s Church in Bay Head, Church of Grace and Peace in Toms River and a storage facility in Toms River for residents of the severly hit Silverton neighborhood.
The trucks and drivers were donated by VitaQuest, Community Education Centers and Corporate Communications Group from West Caldwell and Zimmerman Trucking of Montclair, according to O'Dowd.
The donation center opened its doors on Friday, Nov. 9 and was open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day through Nov. 18. The center was staffed by members of the department who volunteered their time.
A satellite center in Montclair, run by the Montclair Police Department, collected the most needed items and brought them to West Caldwell.
James Caldwell High School Principal Kevin Barnes joined the police officers on the trip, volunteering his forklift operating skills, according to a spokesperson for Caldwell-West Caldwell Schools.