HIGHLANDS, NJ - Taking a well deserved break from the endless cleanup in Highlands, residents came out to Huddy Park today to enjoy food and music and to share their stories with neighbors at the Hope for Highlands celebration.

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Huddy Park is filled with resident who have Hope for Highlands.  Photos by Allan Dean

The spontaneous brain-child of several local business leaders; Douglas Lentz, owner of Inlet Cafe and the Original Oyster, helped lead the effort by lining up several borough businesses, including Bahrs, Chilango's, Inlet Cafe, SeaStreak, ShoreGrafx and many others to provide food for the day.  Lentz lost both his businesses and a home when flooding from Superstorm Sandy swept into Highlands.  He says he will reopen the Inlet Cafe, but he is not sure about the reopening of the Original Oyster.  There was no doubt about the feeling of goodwill spread through the crowd.  "It's a good day," said Lentz. 

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The food service was excellent according to many residents at the event.

Jim Robbinson and Gil Benjamin, of Street Purveyors, provided meat for the barbeques.  Gil Benjamin lost his business in Highlands, Beacon by the Bay, during the flooding.  His home in Neptune had more than 18 feet of water in it.  "We supply most if the businesses in the area (with meat products).  We are just giving back.  It's all about survival now. The restaurants are coming back." said Mr. Benjamin.

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Desserts were plentiful.

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Gil Benjamin tends to the grill.  Benjamin, who lost his Beacon on the Bay, will open a new restaurant, Johnny K's, in Clark on November 21st.

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Cindy and Tim Yerves cooked up soup.  Tim, a chef at Monmouth Medical Center has been helping in the kitchen all week at Henry Hudson Regional School, where evacuees have been housed since the storm knocked out power to the borough.


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Highlands Business Partnership President Carla Cefalo-Braswell thanked the Highlands Police Department, the First Aid Squad, Office of Emergency Management, the Parker family, and many "unsung heroes who worked around the clock to protect our borough."  She said more than 1000 are homeless in Highlands. "We will not let that stop us.  We will come back stronger than ever."  She said donations were being accepted "to help rebuild this town and (for) the people in need."  You may make a contribution to:  Hope for Highlands, PO Box 375, Highlands, NJ 07732.

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Carl Gentry on keys and Dave McCarthy on guitar.

Live Music filled Huddy Park and delighted the audience.  Local artists, Mary McCrink, Carl Genty, Dave McCarthy, and others lended their talent.

Amid the devastation, Highlands residents perservere.  Work parties have been everywhere in the borough. Organized through local and municipal groups, volunteers from all over the area have gutted soaked sheetrock, removed carpets, and piled debris for consolidation at the main pile on Shore Drive.  Cleanup supplies were distributed by a Princeton, New Jersey company.  

It will be months, if not years, before Highlands is restored, but the leadership has vowed to rebuild. Better. Stronger.   

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A mountain of debris is collected on Shore Drive for disposal.

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Linemen continue to work to restore full power in the town.  Most residents got power over the weekend.