Alicia Zendejas (Photo/Sugar On Mars)

NJ Latina helps organize food drive for Sandy victims

Last year, Alicia Zendejas’ non-profit planted more than 71,000 trees in Haiti, but says she’s been doing charity and volunteer work all of her life. When Hurricane Sandy hit her town, Wayne, NJ, she didn’t hesitate to act.

As the co-founder of Echelon Donates in August of 2011, a non-profit organization made up of fans of the rock band 30 Seconds to Mars, Zendejas has been promoting charities that are close to the band’s heart. Since Echelon members are expected to attend the U.S. premiere of ”Artifact” at DOC NYC in New York City, starting tomorrow through Sunday at the SVA Theater, Zendejas decided to combine the event with starting a food drive to help Hurricane Sandy victims.

“People are in need, so I shouldn’t be sitting on my butt doing nothing,” says the lively Zendejas, originally from Hollywood, CA. “I contacted DOC NYC…I e-mailed them to ask if it was ok to donate food. They loved the idea so much…’Just drop off the boxes,’ they said.”

Zendejas says she has already started collecting powdered milk, formula, and canned foods, and she got in touch with City Harvest to pick up the food from SVA Theater on Sunday afternoon. She says the organization has been going to the Rockaways, shelters, and senior centers to distribute the food to various locations.

She herself is still shaken up after the effect of Sandy. She says she was lucky that her home was not destroyed, but when she finally got out of the house, she couldn’t believe what she saw.

“I don’t want to say it was like Hiroshima, but it looked like mass devastation – trees down everywhere, power lines down,” says Zendejas who didn’t have phone service for four or five days. “I had to e-mail people and communicate with my family through Facebook to let them know I was ok.”

The unstoppable Mexican-American is already thinking about her next project collaborating with the organizations Waves 4 Water and the American Red Cross – asking people to help restore the beaches of New Jersey and New York.

“Last night I got an e-mail from Missouri from someone who is planning to travel to New Jersey to volunteer her time,” says Zendejas. We’re coordinating teams going to different shore areas to help with the restoration.”

Coordinating these efforts might take a lot of her time, but Zendejas says it’s the way her mother raised her.

“We had very little growing up,” and she admits sometimes they needed assistance from others. “I feel that this is what I’m supposed to do. I’m a severe asthmatic, and I’ve had several near death experiences, but I’ve been kept on this planet for a reason, and at least I’m leaving a positive mark on this planet.”

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