By Lauren Wanko
Construction continues on the Monmouth County Long-Term Recovery Group’s new volunteer center — housing for Superstorm Sandy volunteers. The non-profit expects these bunk beds to fill up since they’ve just been awarded a second grant from the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund — $100,000.
“It’s almost like a circle because the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund giving us money to hire disaster case managers, which is going to bring more homeowner cases to us which allows us to have more volunteers coming in,” said Monmouth County Long-Term Recovery Group Executive Director Eric Nedelkoff.
The Monmouth County Long-Term Recovery Group received a total of $850,000 from the relief fund.
When asked how fundamental the grant is to the overall operation, Nedelkoff said, “Oh it’s very fundamental. That enables us to help the homeowners. That’s our main goal.”
The non-profit now has two disaster case managers who handle up to 50 caseloads at a time. Staffer Hally Goldstein says the calls continue to increase.
“We’re getting anywhere from five to sometimes 15 calls a week,” she said.
Goldstein insists two new case managers can take on about 60 new clients. Nearby another grantee — the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties — works to meet the still growing demand for food since the Superstorm swept through the Jersey Shore.
“Fifteen thousand people in Monmouth and Ocean Counties alone are coming to our pantries directly impacted by Sandy and now need food,” said FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties Executive Director Carlos Rodriguez.
The year before Sandy struck, the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties distributed seven million pounds of food. Since the storm, that number’s increased — jumping to 10 million pounds this past year.
When asked what his expectations are for this year, Rodriguez said, “We plan and expect to distribute no less than 10.3 million pounds.”
Rodriguez says many families, strapped with mounting bills and reconstruction costs, can no longer afford to put food on the table.
“We went from 250 partner agencies that we work with to over 300,” he said.
Friends Feeding Families is one of those agencies, created in Belford because of the increased need for food.
“We were hit very hard by Sandy,” said Kathy Goode.
The Belford Pantry opened earlier this month and has already served over 200 families.
“Everything loaded up in our cars today will be given out on Saturday on our shelves, will be empty then. We’ll have to refill again,” Goode said.
The Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund says they’ll continue to track and monitor the money awarded. As for the Monmouth County Long-Term Recovery Group, they’re already receiving resumes for the case manager positions.