Two groups that formed to help victims of 2012’s Superstorm Sandy recover are turning their crisis-handling skills to COVID-19, and are seeing the need for financial aid as primary this time.
Organizers for OCNJ C.A.R.E. and the New Jersey Organizing Project said this time people don’t so much need help with everyday tasks, as they did after Sandy when volunteers immediately removed debris from homes and replaced drywall.
“Only a couple of people have registered for help with getting groceries, that kind of thing,” said Drew Fasy of OCNJ C.A.R.E., a nonprofit started after Sandy to help residents of Ocean City. The group had been inactive for several years and last week got up and running again at the request of Mayor Jay Gillian.
The New Jersey Organizing Project, based in Stafford Township, has been working continually since Sandy and is still helping those affected by the storm get their homes lifted and repaired, as well as their finances in order.
It recently decided to add the COVID-19 crisis to its mission, after surveying its members, said founder and Executive Director Amanda Devecka-Rinear.
Her group created a new section on its website to give people information on COVID-19 resources, and 3,000 people had visited it by last week.
Of those, 919 visited the “paying the bills” section, she said. That section was by far the most visited by percentage, she said.
“They are really worried about how (the virus) is impacting their jobs and businesses. We also saw that with our survey,” Devecka-Rinear said.
The other sections, in order of popularity by visitor, were immediate assistance, testing and health care, staying in touch, who is profiting, what is happening, stress and mental health.
She said the NJOP sees its role as both informing people statewide about resources available and advocating for the needs of residents during crises.
In addition to Sandy recovery, it has incorporated into its mission addressing the overdose epidemic.
“We stay on top of what is happening — programs and policies — and advocate for helping,” Devecka-Rinear said.
At the same time, the group is still working on its primary mission of Sandy recovery.
“We are collecting ‘Stop the Clawback’ petitions and are supposed to deliver them to Congress. We have over 1,000 now and have to figure out how to do delivery virtually,” Devecka-Rinear said.
Clawbacks are attempts by the government to take back some of the aid given to homeowners after Sandy, after an audit finds mistakes in how much aid was given.
Fasy said the Ocean City group has partnered with other groups, such as VFW Post 6650 at 15th Street and Bay Avenue, to help residents.
Post Commander Mike Morrissey, a retired caterer, said the post will soon be preparing about 10 meals a day for some of its elderly members, in cooperation with OCNJ C.A.R.E.
“The president has declared war (on the virus). Who better to call than the VFW?” Morrissey said.
Fasy said more than 100 people have registered as volunteers to help others with shopping and other tasks. So Fasy is encouraging people — especially seniors — to register and “get on our radar,” so the group can connect them with a volunteer who will keep an eye on them and see whether they need help later.
“Donations are coming in. That’s an important piece,” Fasy said. “While the need is not pressing today, we know it is coming.”