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In Sandy's Wake

In Sandy's Wake

On Oct. 29, 2012, the East Coast was braced for what was predicted to be one of the worst hurricanes in recent history. With winds as high as 110 miles per hour, Hurricane Sandy took its toll on everything that stood in its path as it made landfall near Atlantic City, NJ. In all, 24 states were impacted by the storm and an estimated $65.6 billion of damages were reported, making it the second costliest hurricane in US history. Now, two months after the storm, Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies in New York and New Jersey are still feeling the aftershock of the storm in different ways.

While Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monmouth and Middlesex Counties did not suffer any structural damage to their facilities, their office lost power for two full weeks. Despite the loss of electricity, agency staff were determined to keep the program up and running. In order to maintain contact with Bigs, Littles and families, they relied on cell phones to keep in touch. Match support specialists attempted to contact each family that they serve, but were only able to reach 25% of them. Many families were evacuated, but most were dealing with the loss of their homes. Amid the destruction, community members came together to hold a coat and food drive to raise donations for the agency and the families they serve. Those that are interested in contributing can visit their website at www.bbbsmmc.org for more information.

Ocean County New Jersey was one of the hardest hit areas of the state, which is evidenced by the high number of FEMA applicants from the area. The Big Brothers Big Sisters agency in Ocean County was among those that suffered damage, as they too lost power and sustained damage to the roof of their facility. In addition to the office damage, five Bigs and 65 Littles were displaced from their homes. Staff and Bigs remained dedicated to the cause of mentoring through it all. "Despite the fact that Bigs suffered losses, they are so committed to help," said Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ocean County CEO Sue Sedivec. "They were out there trying to reconnect with their Littles because they know how important it is." Now, the agency is determined to find funding to keep their programs going. Find more information on how you can give back at www.bbbsoc.org or call 732-905-5349 to speak with someone about making a donation.

The damage at Big Brothers Big Sisters' Long Island agency was perhaps the most severe. The building that housed the agency's donation center partially collapsed when wind from the hurricane increased, leaving the building without a roof and wall on one side. Despite the long and drawn out process to rebuild, the agency has received support from across the country. "We are so appreciative of the outpouring of support from the National office and local agencies," said Susan Samaroo, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island's Chief Operating Officer. "Agencies as far reaching as Canada have sent personal checks, care packages, and more; we felt very connected to our network of agencies." The agency chose to utilize text giving to help raise money so that they can rebuild. To make a $5 donation, text BIG to 80100. Standard text messaging rates may apply. Find out more ways you can get involved at their website, www.bbbsli.org.

Despite the devastation, there is a light in the darkness. Individuals recognize the need in their communities and have donated their time and money to the recovery efforts. In the case of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties, Bigs and Littles have assisted the relief efforts by spending their free time helping to clean up affected areas and rebuild structures that sustained damage. As Susan Samaroo said when I spoke to her: Even in the middle of catastrophe and devastation, you see people's true colors and there is still good in the world.

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