BRICK – When an unexpected summer flood in Ocean County left many low-income seniors homeless, the disaster relief team at GNJ went right to work.
Led by Tom O’Hearn, GNJ’s Disaster Relief Coordinator, United Methodist volunteers started working with Jersey Shore United throughout the fall. O’Hearn quickly realized more help was needed.
“A couple families seemed totally distraught, in a daze, and didn’t know what to do,” said O’Hearn who along with members of St. Paul’s UMC in Brick, attended a session for families affected by the flooding two days after the storm.
Working with Andrea Wren Hardin, a Hope Center Developer for A Future With Hope, he applied for and received a grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) for GNJ to help Greenbriar survivors with the repair and winterization of their homes.
The disaster began on Monday morning, August 13, 2018 when a severe summer storm hit the New Jersey township of Brick and dumped eight inches of rain in a matter of hours. While storms happen often enough, this amount of rain is rare and the area does not normally experience flash flooding, so most were unprepared. Rainwaters and runoff from nearby creeks flooded the streets and by midday the governor had ordered the evacuation of more than 100 seniors from the Greenbriar senior community. The roads were under so much water that Brick police were only able to reach people by boat to get them to safety.
When the waters receded and evacuees were able to return to their homes, they were greeted by destruction and wreckage. Floodwaters had gotten into more than 100 homes in the area, leaving them uninhabitable. Garages were completely flooded out and sheds had been washed away only to be found blocks over. Interior damage to the homes left walls damp and moldy, electrical systems compromised and floors and furniture destroyed beyond repair. Some homes suffered from sewage backups. Even more devastating was the loss of family photos and mementos, items of sentimental value which no money could replace.
In an area that doesn’t experience flooding, most Greenbriar homes did not have flood insurance of any kind. Requests sent to FEMA were denied and many were left wondering how their lives were ever going to go back to normal again.
“We’re working on 15 homes, hoping to get these families back by the holidays with at least their heat and kitchens,” said O’Hearn.
The $100,000 UMCOR grant covers building materials, appliances, and funds for licensed contractors to winterize 15 homes, including the cost of winterization supplies (baseboard heating units, exterior doors, HVAC materials, electrical panels and bathroom vanities and fixtures as needed), appliances include hot water heaters, electric stoves, and refrigerators, as well as labor costs for licensed electricians and plumbers.
Many GNJ congregations, including St. Paul’s in Brick have volunteered to help and are working with Jersey Shore United who is coordinating most of the non-profit construction efforts at Greenbriar. On their first day of reconstruction, Jersey Shore United documented more than 280 volunteer hours and over $7000 in free labor.
Karen Jarmusz from the Atlantic Highlands Navesink UMC, who volunteered with Jersey Shore United, had praise for the project.
“We found it to be a great ministry, and we are hopeful to return with others,” she said. “This is a very inspiring Christ centered group and a joy to be with.”
UMCOR is the humanitarian relief and development arm of The United Methodist Church. Their three-pronged mission is to provide humanitarian relief / disaster response, sustainable development, and global health. Compelled by Christ to be a voice of conscience on behalf of Methodists, UMCOR works globally to alleviate human suffering and advance hope and healing. They distribute grants to provide funding and related expertise for effective and efficient disaster readiness, relief and recovery projects on behalf of The UMC.
“It’s been a collaborative effort,” said O’Hearn. Along with St. Paul’s in Brick, Sparta UMC, Jackson UMC, St. Andrew’s in Toms River, Hamilton UMC, and Atlantic Highlands Navesink UMC have brought teams to help bring families home.
GNJ disaster response is presently on the ground and repairing homes in the Greenbriar neighborhood of Brick. Volunteers are needed. To sign up (both individuals and teams), email Disaster Response Coordinator Tom O’Hearn at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here.