Sister Shamus Zehrer said she has never seen a worse disaster in her 49 years in Atlantic City.
"You can't walk into the school," she said. "The odor is horrific from ocean water and sewer backup. The school and convent lost its heating boiler and there's four feet of water in the cafeteria and kitchen. One of our fathers lost his shoes and he's walking around in flip flops.
"It's going to be a very tough two or three months for our parents and kids," she said.
Zehrer is the principal of Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic School in Atlantic City. She said the scope of damage in the wake of Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy is stunning.
It didn't take the parents, students and administrators of Christ the King Regional School in Haddonfield long to jump into action when they heard of the crisis at Our Lady Star of the Sea.
"This is right up our alley," said Andrea Schwab, a Haddonfield parent and school association member. "Just give us a cause and we spring into action."
Schwab and a team of other volunteers at the school have organized a fundraiser to be held Friday, Nov. 9, at 6:30 p.m at the school gym in Haddonfield.
"Hoops for Hope, Score for the Shore" will engage parents and students in a basketball skills and drills competition to raise money for Catholic Charities (and, specifically, for Our Lady Star of the Sea).
"We knew they got hit pretty hard and we wanted to do something to help," Schwab said. "We think it's important for the kids to get involved."
Schwab said her home lost power for 15 hours during the storm. But she and her family know how fortunate they are compared to others in the region who lost much more.
The local relief effort snapped into action so fast that Zehrer wasn't even aware of it Monday afternoon.
"We're very taken aback," she said, "happy and astonished people want to help. We're so used to helping other people that we're humbled that people are coming to help us."
Participants will pay $10 to play in the Christ the King fundraiser and spectators will pay $5. The event is from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the school, located at 164 Hopkins Avenue, Haddonfield, NJ 08033. For more information, please call 856-429-2084.
Zehrer said the items most in need include blankets, sheets, diapers, heavy coats and shoes. Donations can be sent directly to Our Lady Star of the Sea, 15 N. California Ave., Atlantic City, NJ 08401, or to the church rectory at 2651 Atlantic Ave., Atlantic City, NJ 08401.