No one could have imagined that when we left our homes on October 28 that when we returned our lives would never be the same. The destruction, despair and sadness still remain over four months later.
I personally knew that as a resident of the barrier islands I needed to do something to help, but didn't know where to begin. I decided as the holidays were approaching that I needed to show those who heroically helped during the storm that we truly appreciated all they did for us. This is how I met most of you through my initial event of Christmas On The Island.
After that amazing event that reached so many during our darkest times I partnered up with many amazing groups, specifically AmeriCorps. Through maintaining my relationships with the municipalities and partnering with AmeriCorps, I am able to bring the community needs to them and they are able to provide the free service of putting our towns back together.
They are a group that is unique to any other. They are specially trained in leadership, problem-solving, and other trades needed here. It is because of their skill set and leadership training that Ocean County has been able to thrive as it has and this is why I have partnered with them. I hear on many occasions from residents that AmeriCorps is what has gotten them through. They have provided an open door to the community of resources and support.
Whether you are part of a municipality, an employee of public works, a resident, a business owner, a community leader; I am asking for your help now. AmeriCorps was sent here by FEMA for response. After their initial 90 days they were to leave as the long-term recovery took over.
While we are not at the point yet, we are still in dire need of AmeriCorps resources and services. While program leaders and the Corporation for National and Community Service have pushed and urged for an extension through March, we must prepare to push for this extension through April and longer. The truth of the matter is, it needs to be heard by the people, by the local municipalities and more importantly it needs to come from our congressmen Jon Runyan and Chris Smith. Above all, this decision needs to go through our Governor’s office.
I could get into all the statistics, but the truth is you people know the need for their presence. Hurricane Sandy has been compared a lot to Hurricane Katrina. While every disaster is completely different, we do all have many needs in common. FEMA deployed over 100 AmeriCorps crews on October 28. It is now March 10 and we are fighting to keep them here while we have only made a dent in the response because of this disaster's magnitude.
Disasters such as Katrina and Joplin still have AmeriCorps presence there today. New York has a plentiful amount of crews serving on a long-term basis. The emergency supplemental aid packages passed by Congress and signed by the President included funding for AmeriCorps long-term in every other disaster. OURS DID NOT. For whatever reason, Hurricane Sandy and New Jersey have not been given funds included in our emergency supplemental aid package, the only disaster of this magnitude to not include this funding from FEMA. This is simply unacceptable.
- I have watched AmeriCorps complete 280 job orders which include gutting, digging out up to 6ft of sand, removing debris, salvaging what little is left, chopping trees through houses and so much more. I've watched the residents walk in the door to the office AmeriCorps runs out of, a trailer donated to us by the city of Seaside Heights, and cry their eyes out humbled by the comforting faces offering them help or tears of joy thanking the crews for being the only ones that came by to help them.
- We have held several large scale volunteer events with up to 448 volunteers at one event as well as taking in almost 100 volunteers each Saturday and Sunday regularly and varied numbers of volunteers during the week, totaling 22,850 volunteer hours documented and led by AmeriCorps crews.
- We have hosted numerous community and public space events such as securing dune fencing, restoration of dunes, cleaning debris from the waterways and marsh along the waterfronts, street sweeps to keep the streets clean for the residents returning, beach clean-ups to remove washed up debris, planting dune grass and more. Each of these projects have been done numerous times, because once to twice a week everything begins to build up again.
- I cannot stress enough what an important role AmeriCorps has played in assisting in dune restoration, while others have spent millions on their dunes only to be washed away by another storm. The only cost is for the fencing and plants because of AmeriCorps dedication and volunteer work.
- AmeriCorps has been here now for two major storms since Sandy and have been able to lead the municipalities and residents' needs in the urgent time of voluntary evacuations and major tidal flooding.
- In 4 days AmeriCorps lead numerous volunteers to help restore a fire department that was still sitting gutted to the studs four months after the storm. Once brought to our attention by another community leader, AmeriCorps led other volunteer groups and accomplished more than anyone else had in months. In three the AmeriCorps crew helped paint, stabilize and prepare a 20,000-square foot food bank catering to 4,000 families open for the public. Their leadership roles help prepare and stabilize the community’s most important assets.
As a resident and as a community leader I find it unacceptable that AmeriCorps will have their mission assignment ended while there is still so much need. We deserve the same help that has been given in our country throughout other disasters. We cannot waste time finding out why we were not included in the aid package, but what we can do is be heard. We make the fight of a lifetime because this is what we believe in. I have had numerous people tell me that they don't know where they would be without the help of AmeriCorps. Now is the time to tell us about it.
I am asking YOU for the help now. Please write a letter explaining what AmeriCorps has done for you. Please tell your story, your feelings of why AmeriCorps is beneficial to our community during this incredibly vulnerable time. What we need to stress to the people on a congressional and government level is that there is the need. If you are a community leader, please include any statistics available to you about the help still needed. Those 90 days of their incredible resources is not enough. If they could take a ride along Route 35, walk into your community down your street, or your home, they would understand. Let’s make them understand. Please write these letters and reach out to your local government officials to fight for the help that we deserve.
Please utilize the numbers, email, and web addresses listed to contact these leaders. Please also send all letters to me at Courtney.Chibbaro@gmail.com or I can pick them up from you so I can compile a list. If you are from a municipality please have each department and person write a letter. If you are a resident please spread this on to your community. Some townships have agreed to passing a resolution, while others are pledging the cause to their congressional and government level contacts. As an individual please continue to call these numbers and send letters to these contacts. Make sure a copy is sent to me for the final submittal. To have your letter picked up or for any questions you can call me at 732-910-1344. YOU the people deserve this help. I will not allow for someone to walk up to the trailer on April 1 and find a closed door.
Seaside Park, New Jersey
• Governor Chris Christie's office:
609-292-6000, fax 609-292-3454. Please go to this website to write email to gov: http://www.state.nj.us/governor/contact/
- Lt Governor Kim Guadagno:
Phone: 609-777-2581, email: Judy.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Congressman Jon Runyan:
DC Phone: 202-225-4765 DC Fax: 202-225-0778
Toms River office: 600 Mule Road, Unit 6, Toms River, NJ 08757
Phone: 732-279-6013 Fax: 732-279-6062
- Congressman Christopher Smith:
DC Phone: (202) 225-3765 DC Fax: (202) 225-7768
Hamilton Office: 1540 Kuser Road, Suite A9, Hamilton, New Jersey 08619
Phone: (609) 585-7878 Fax: (609) 585-9155
- Rowena Madden, Director of the Governor's Office of Volunteerism email: Rowena.Madden@SOS.STATE.NJ.US