TOMS RIVER TOWNSHIP- Volunteers from the Paying It Forward Foundation held a flag raising ceremony and a welcome home party for two residents that were displaced by Superstorm Sandy.

Michael “Mickey” and Audrey Gavala, who have owned their Third Avenue Ortley Beach home for 52 years, were displaced for the past nine months. Mickey, a former Marine, suffered a debilitating stroke 19 years ago and was unable to do the work necessary to make his home habitable after the storm. Daughter Denise Gavala and Gina Cavallo, of Paying It Forward, stepped in with numerous other charitable organizations and about 100 volunteers to rebuild the home for the Gavalas.

Mayor Tom Kelaher was at the celebration and said, “Looking out at the crowd was a scene of Americana that represented a whole cross section of the community, who were there to celebrate the return home of Mickey and Audrey Gavala.”  Mickey, the guest of honor, served in the Marine Corps from 1956-1959.  He was saluted by the Marine Corps League Reynolds Detachment 203 from Freehold, and was serenaded by bagpipers who played, “From the Halls of Montezuma” in his honor.


The highlight of the event was the posting of the Marine Corps flag on the porch of the home.  Mayor Kelaher said that the presence of the Marine Corps Detachment is proof of the motto, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”


Kelaher noted that the entire restoration project could not have been accomplished without the outstanding effort by numerous volunteers and church groups including Bona Responds, Calvary Chapel Relief, Calvary Chapel Teens, Habitat for Humanity, Portlight Strategies, Sandy Weekend Warriors, and Seton Hall Prep. Students from St. Bonaventure University built a handicap ramp for Mickey, which was one of the largest single projects of the restoration process.


For more information on Paying It Forward, visit their website at


Mayor Tom Kelaher, Councilwoman Maria Maruca and Councilman Mo Hill (standing) welcome the Gavalas back to their home. Photo credit: Debbi Winogracki.


 The highlight of the event was the posting of the Marine Corps flag on the porch of the home on Third Ave. in Ortley Beach. Photo credit: Debbi Winogracki.








Mailing Address:
Post Office Box 728,
Toms River, New Jersey 08754-0728
Town Hall located at:
33 Washington Street
Toms River, New Jersey 08753