Church World Service efforts in response to Superstorm Sandy have had tremendous positive effects on the overall ability of New Jersey’s many long-term recovery groups to help folks rebuild homes and lives in the aftermath of the storm.
From the infancy of New Jersey's recovery, CWS was on site providing valuable training in the long-term recovery process. By providing the "Recovery Tools and Training" workshop, webinars and Long-Term Recovery Guide, folks who had great desire to help but little experience in long-term recovery were able to master the basics.
When, in summer 2013, we saw that the movement of cases by many long-term recovery groups was stalled, VOADs (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) concluded that more support was needed. CWS designed and delivered four workshops statewide to help get cases moving forward and resolved.
The workshops were very well attended and overwhelmingly applauded by participants. Elizabeth Murno, Director of the Monmouth County Long-Term Recovery Group, commented, “Based on the excellent training received at the workshop, we at the Monmouth County Long-Term Recovery Group are striving to comprehensively assess the disaster-related needs of our residents with the goal of assisting families who could not otherwise recover on their own.”
CWS “validated for me and my staff what it is we are trying to accomplish – to address disaster-related unmet needs and return residents to safe, sanitary, secure and functional housing,” Murno said. “This is no small task given the extent of the damage, the relative unfamiliarity of responding to a natural disaster in this region, and the slow pace of federal relief dollars being distributed. Fortunately, we have the expert assistance of individuals and national disaster partners including CWS. We couldn’t do it without you!"
Following the four workshops - held in late October - New Jersey has seen a marked increase in cases moving towards resolution in the long-term recovery groups that attended. Strong and effective case management is the keystone of successful long-term recovery, and the support of CWS has been key in this effort.
Due to the nature and magnitude of this particular disaster, national and state long-term recovery partners recognized the need early on to work together in support of New Jersey's many long-term recovery groups. To this end, Regional Support Teams for the North and South of the state were created. CWS has been an integral and active partner in these activities.
A key example is in Essex County. Substantial damage from storm flooding occurred in Newark and other municipalities in this urban county. As with many of our urban areas, residents' sense of place is often with their neighborhood. In Newark’s Ironbound section, a long-term recovery group was established. However, this did not address the needs of the wider Essex County community. CWS was a key player in educating and convincing folks of the benefits of expanding the scope of the long-term recovery group, with benefits to survivors throughout Essex County. This is a stronger long-term recovery group as a result of this effort, and would not have happened without the efforts of CWS and its partners. Thousands of survivors will receive assistance that otherwise would not.
Looking to the future, we are but starting down our long road to recovery in New Jersey. We will continue to need the full efforts of CWS and our other National VOAD partners in support of our long-term recovery groups, and ultimately those survivors they serve.
Keith R. Adams is Disaster Recovery Coordinator, Episcopal Dioceses of New Jersey and Newark, New Jersey.