By Robin Rieger
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – In the South Jersey beach town of Wildwood, it’s starting to look like Santa’s North Pole.
There are wrapped presents and Christmas decorations at the Esplanade Suites. Co-owner Denise Palek is trying to make 12 families displaced by superstorm Sandy feel at home, especially at this time of the year.
“I feel like an elf or a Santa, it brings a smile to my face. When you hand it to them they tear up, I tear up,” Palek said.
Palek has organized a toy drive to help guests, like Carlos Santory of Seaside Heights, give his nearly three-year-old daughter Christmas gifts. His apartment, job and income are gone.
“I was surprised to even get gifts. I wasn’t expecting getting gifts for her,” Santory said.
He’s as grateful to receive gifts as people here are to give them.
A room at the Wildwood Convention Center is filled with another toy drive organized by sales director John Lynch. Jackie Mikulski’s Key West Cafe is one drop off point.
“Even the smallest little toy can will make a difference,” said Mikulski.
The presents are for about 200 children including out of town storm victims and Wildwood families whose homes are damaged.
“They have to make a tough decision. Is it to have an elaborate Christmas this year or is it, are we going to pay bills, get our house fixed and put food on the table in January, February and March. We certainly want to make sure Santa Claus gets to their home and gets them a gift on Christmas Eve,” said John Lynch.
CBS 3 wanted to help as well. The Salvation Army’s major Tom Pierce gave Palek and her team a news van full of gifts from our Joy Of Sharing campaign.
“This just really warms the hearts of people who suffered through the storm, in getting them ready for Christmas,” said Major Pierce.
“We have absolutely enough, thank you everybody,” Palek said.
Gifts for parents and other adults here include peace of mind. FEMA has extended their stay through January 11.