The first images that come to mind of Sandy’s effect on New Jersey are flooded seaside towns, wave battered boardwalks and inundated islands. Much of the attention and media coverage after the storm was focused on those communities in the southern half of the state. Devastation from the storm was also felt across northern sections of the state. The recovery process in the north may not have been as visible, but it was no less strenuous.
A Future With Hope has worked in 13 of New Jersey’s 21 counties including Bergen, Union, Essex and Middlesex counties in the north of the state that are not always associated with Sandy damage.
Most of this work has been hand in hand with local recovery agencies, such as county long-term recovery groups (LTRGs). These LTRGs are cooperative bodies made up of representatives from faith-based, non-profit, government, business and other organizations working within a community to assist individuals and families as they recover from disaster. Their stated goal is to unite recovery resources with community needs in order to ensure that even the most vulnerable in community recover from disaster.
By forging strong partnerships with the LTRGs in Bergen, Union and Middlesex counties, A Future With Hope and United Methodists were able to extend assistance far north of the Raritan River, serving Sandy survivors from Gateway North District to Cape Atlantic District.
“Our program was set up to handle all areas of Sandy rebuilding,” says Rev. Lou Strugala, Construction Director for A Future With Hope, “So we were able to help other agencies fill in gaps and get people home quicker than we or they could have done alone.”
Different needs required service in different ways. In the southern region, A Future With Hope often acted as the primary case manager and construction leader on projects. In Union County, A Future With Hope’s construction team joined other organizations that were already on the ground working with Sandy survivors.
In Bergen County, A Future With Hope worked with the VOAD (Volunteer Organizations in Disaster) to collaboratively finance necessary repairs for homeowners, including mold remediation, electrical work, roof work, even replacement of a mobile home.
When A Future With Hope could not send construction teams to support a project they assisted in the financing. Since 2013, they have helped finance rebuilding on 22 homes in Bergen and Middlesex counties.
When building crews were sent in, United Methodist churches were at the ready to host volunteers and provide radical hospitality. Aldersgate United Methodist Church in East Brunswick and Park United Methodist Church Mission House in Bloomfield served as host sites to more than 300 volunteers. Churches, including New Dover UMC of Edison, Clinton UMC, FUMC Somerville, Sayreville UMC, UMC Madison and FUMC Westfield, dispatched members with donated meals to feed the hard working volunteers lodging at these host sites.
In total, A Future With Hope has helped rebuild or finance rebuilding 50 homes in 15 communities in Bergen, Union, Essex and Middlesex counties resulting in 135 people moving back home. A Future With Hope continues to work in both regions and will do so until recovery is complete.