Twins Allai and Connor Regan know what it feels like when a community pitches in to help a family in need, and that's why they wanted to be part of Friday's hurricane relief effort at Echo Lake Church of Christ in Westfield.
"Our father died in 9/11 and the community gave so much to us," Allai said. "It felt good to help out (today) when they helped us out so much."
served as a host site Friday morning for the Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort, Inc. The Nashville-based organization sent a truckload of supplies — from food staples to bedding and cleaning items — to be parceled out to Union County residents trying to weather the affects of Hurricane Irene.
The Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort unofficially began operations in 1990. Since then, the organization has distributed more than $106 million in emergency food and supplies in response to 301 disasters in 42 states, according to the organization's website.
Echo Lake Church of Christ donates to the organization every year and contacted the national organization's warehouse in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene to see if they could lend supplies.
The spirit of giving back was alive among the nearly 50 volunteers who helped unload items off the truck and reload supplies bound for Union County towns, such as Cranford, Springfield, Rahway, Union and Kenilworth.
"The neighborhood I lived in got hit very hard," said Cranford resident Allison Genovese, who was volunteering. "It's heartbreaking to see people's belongings out on the side of the road. ...You feel like whatever you can do to help, even if it's the smallest thing, is worth it."
From bleach to brooms, and pillows to paper towels, nearly $80,000 of supplies were sent to Union County for distribution. The list included: water, bed sheets, mops, diapers, portable generators, infant care boxes and family food boxes of potted meats, coffee, vegetables, dry milk, pasta, toothbrushes and toothpaste, peanut butter, jelly, cereal, cups, napkins, plates, soap and a Bible.
"It's our desire today to make sure everything here goes," said Donnell Carr, one of the church's leaders. "We're trying to parcel it out so everybody gets what they need."
The supplies left the church on Department of Public Works trucks from various towns. Municipalities who asked for the supplies will dispatch them through local offices of emergency management to the hardest hit areas.
Some of the supplies were available by pickup and others were being delivered door-to-door, according to Union County spokesman Jim Pellettiere.
For the 12-year-old twins, sending food to families in need is what you do when disaster strikes. It's what many people did for them after their father, Thomas M. Regan, died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"They brought us a lot of food," Connor said. "Almost too much food. They helped us a lot."
The family now lives in Westfield, but Cranford is mom Gayle Regan's hometown.
"I'm helping out my hometown," she said. "I lost my husband in 9/11...They were only 2 when their dad passed away, so it's important for them to help out and give back just like so many people did for us."
To donate to the Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort, call toll-free at 1-888-541-2848. said it can also accept monetary donations for the organzation. Contact: 908-233-4946.