Charitable Groups Lead NJ Recovery Efforts [AUDIO]
So many New Jerseyans are continuing to pick up the pieces of their lives after Superstorm Sandy ravaged their homes, destroyed their belongings and left them with little or nothing. Many of them are finding that they don't know where to start or who to turn to.
Meanwhile, hundreds have made their way to the areas hardest hit to lend a helping hand and to bring items to those in need. As the long-term recovery efforts get underway, those items will continue to be in high demand. But, the needs change regularly. So, what can you do if you want to donate?
"We absolutely appreciate anything that people are offering, but the best gifts are cash donations or gift cards. So many people have to rebuild their homes, so gift cards to Home Depot or Lowes are ideal. A lot of people are in need of food, so grocery store gift cards are great as well," said Maria Hunter, Director for the Office of Parish Social Ministry at Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Metuchen and Long-Term Recovery Committee Chair. "Gift cards to Target and Wal-Mart and stores like that help too. They're easy to store, easy to transport and it's easy to connect them with people who need them."
Catholic Charities is working in cooperation with other agencies and organizations to take in donations and get them to families in need.
"We will be working very closely with FEMA identifying where the needs are and distributing those resources in a way that's very fair. The most important thing is to connect the resources with the people who need it most. The long-term recovery committee will be able to do this as a community," said Hunter. "It's going to be done with case management because that is the easiest and most efficient way to find out exactly what the needs are and to be able to meet those needs."
It's important for those who need help to go through the proper protocol. "First, register with FEMA, then if they have homeowners insurance," said Hunter. "Charitable organizations should be the last place people should turn to because if we're helping people with hot water heaters or major appliances and FEMA would've covered that, FEMA would assume that need was taken care of. So, to really maximize how much assistance households can receive, they should find out what FEMA can offer them, then turn to their insurance companies and then come to us."
"One of the most challenging things has been to get the word out that there are resources available. We want all needs to be identified and made known to us, so that we can work together with other partner agencies in the community so we can help the people who most need the help," said Hunter. "I think it's also important for people to know that our services are not limited to Catholics and Catholic churches. We're here for all people in need."
Clothing donations in Middlesex County can be brought to Elijah's Promise Clothesline, 90 Jersey Avenue in New Brunswick. All food items can all be sent to the Middlesex County Food Pantry at 701 Jersey Avenue in New Brunswick.
For a list of other donation sites, visit ccdom.org.