Patch.com: NJ First Lady's Fund Donates $31,300 to Church in Point Beach
Funds will help house volunteers helping Sandy victims
Denise Di Stephan | Point Pleasant Patch
New Jersey First Lady Mary Pat Christie announced on Monday morning that the Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund is donating $31,300 to help Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church renovate facilities for out-of-town volunteers helping Sandy victims.
This grant will be used to improve the church's Volunteer Village dormitory facilities, which house 36 volunteers per week and supply non-profits with volunteer labor for local home rebuilding.
Christie toured the church's dormitory facilities, including bunk beds with mattresses donated by the US Army, bathrooms and a stage area where showers and dressing rooms will be constructed.
The donation from the relief fund overseen by Christie will help renovate bathrooms, buy tools and convert a garage into a tool shed, said the Rev. Carl Wilton, pastor of Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church, Bay and Forman avenues, Point Beach.
Separately, a $25,000 donation from the Robin Hood Foundation, famous for its rock benefit concert, will help construct four showers and dressing rooms on what is now a stage at the church's education annex building, Wilton said.
Christie said the $31,300 donation is just one example of how the funds will be used to help local non-profits help those affected by Sandy.
"We're going to be here for three or four years," Christie said. "I talked to people in Florida affected by storms and they said that's how long it will take to recover. Knowing New Jerseyeans and their resiliency as I do, maybe it will only take two and half or three," she said smiling, "but we will be here."
Christie said her husband decided a few days after the storm that a hurricane relief fund was needed.
"He called me up and said we need a hurricane relief fund, I'm putting you in charge of it. And then in his usual abrupt manner, he hung up the phone," she said, grinning again.
The fund has raised $34 million so far, will have allocated $11 million in grants by the end of April, with the first $1 million going towards long term recovery groups, she said.
The recovery group in Ocean County is chaired by Ted Gooding, who is also in charge of Ocean Inc. However, Ocean Inc. is not involved in the recovery committee, Gooding is chair as an individual, said Peter Farwell, the church's Sandy Recovery Coordinator and co-chair of the Volunteer Management Subcommittee of the county recovery committee chaired by Gooding.
Those who need help should apply to the county recovery committee in their county.
The United Way of Ocean County serves as the treasurer and fiscal agent of the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group, according to Mary-Kate Fisher, Deputy Director of the relief fund.
When asked if the county Long Term Recovery Group has its 501c3 nonprofit status, Fisher said in an email, "The Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group (OCLTRG) does not have their own non-profit status at this time.
"They are currently using the United Way of Ocean County as their fiscal agent and treasurer, and the United Way does have a 501c3 IRS determination. Technically, the Fund’s grant is disbursed directly to the OCLTRG through their treasurer, the United Way of Ocean County. The OCLTRG is utilizing the fiscal processes that the United Way currently has in place as they continue to come to maturation and form their group."
Christie said the fund, so far, has had 27,000 donations from all over the world, including Europe, and she noted that there have been a large number of donors who live in Florida.
"There has been a remarkable show of support," she said. "We're trying to get someone to fix Little League fields. That's outside our mission statement, but I'm talking to people in professional baseball who I know."
The idea behind the dormitory at the church annex is that by giving out-of-town volunteers an affordable place to sleep, take a shower and eat, they will not have to spend what would be a much higher expense to stay at hotels and dine out at restaurants. Currently, local gyms are letting the volunteers use their showers until the new ones at the church annex are built, said Pastor Carl Wilton.
"Yes, it's a big help," said Tom Wagner, of Lewisburg, PA. He said he and 20 other members of the "Lend a Hand" organization had arrived at the church on Sunday and were going out into the community after Christie's appearance to help residents who had been flooded by Sandy.
Each volunteer pays about $150 per week to stay at the annex facility, he said. Because that includes a bed, showers and meals, it's a far lower price than they would spend staying in hotels and dining out, Wagner said.
When asked why he wanted to help, Wagner said, "Just the idea of helping people. Some of the guys here took vacation time from work, most are retired. We just want to work on cleaning out, rebuilding or anything that will help."
Christie credited the "Lend a Hand" group, one of the organizations of out-of-town volunteers at the church annex Monday listening to her speak, before they went out to work on Sandy-damaged homes.
"Did I hold you up getting out to work?" Christie asked, laughing.
Christie, who was making her first visit to the church, was asked later if there is a way for the fund to allocate money directly to residents struggling with the high cost of cleaning out, renovating and elevating homes.
"I know it's really a challenge for victims," she said. "We're trying to do this in the most judicious way possible so the money is used efficiently.
"We vet all the organizations that are considered for funding thoroughly. We made it known that nonprofits would be getting this funding. It's impossible to vet 15,000 people. They'll get help through groups like this or Habitat for Humanity of Ocean County, which we've also funded."
The dormitory at the church, which was built in 1960, includes a series of bunk beds, including 36 beds for volunteers, Wilton said. He said he expects to have portable toilets used at the church until more toilets can be added in the education annex.
He said he is expecting the relief funds to arrive soon and that contractors will be lined up to start working on renovating bathrooms and converting the garage into a tool shed.
For residents who may see groups in their neighborhoods this week wearing matching T-shirts, you may be seeing groups from the church.
The volunteers at the church annex on Monday morning included members of the Lend a Hand group, wearing green T-shirts with the group name, and members of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance organization, wearing blue T-shirts with the group's name emblazoned on them.
Lend a Hand volunteers have been coming to the church to help out since December for one week a month, Wilton said. So far, the residents they have helped and are helping this week are those who have been referred to the church or who church officials have become aware of through word-of-mouth, he said.
For more information about the fund, see the website.