Sea Bright Rising was started in the wake of Sandy to help residents and businesses in the hard-hit Monmouth County town.What's so great about the Garden State? Tell us about a group or organization using the form at the end of this story.

Facebook

"It was pretty much completely decimated. I don't think there was a property in Sea Bright that was not touched," said Ilene Winters, Sea Bright Rising member.

Quickly, the effort morphed from local restaurant owners feeding relief workers into a full-scale grassroots organization.

"We've raised over $1.3 million, most of which has already been distributed to about 300 families," Winters said.

Sea Bright Rising has been applauded for working quickly with no red tape to help Sandy victims.

"According to Governor Christie, we were the only organization able to, number one, raise that kind of money, and number two, get it distributed," Winters explained.

While progress has been made in Sea Bright, there is still a long way to go post-storm.

"It's certainly not the town it was prior to Hurricane Sandy," Winters said.

She estimates that only about one-third of residents have come back and over 100 properties still sit abandoned.

Over the last few months, fundraising efforts have been stalled, and the group needed a jolt to move to the next phase of recovery and rebuilding. That has come in the form of a partnership with St. Bernard Project, which is a national disaster recovery program that was started after Hurricane Katrina.

Since assisting with that relief effort, the non-profit has applied their model to other areas in need.

Winters said this alliance is a game-changer for the town and the charity, allowing Sea Bright Rising to use St. Bernard Project's proven model and track-record to assist residents who own homes, but lack the financial means necessary to rebuild on their own. They will serve the towns of Sea Bright, Highlands and Rumson.

"The project will probably last about two years, and it'll probably cost about $2.5 million," Winters said.

The program is expected to begin later this month.

Find out more about Sea Bright Rising by visiting their website and Facebook page. You can also get more details online about St. Bernard Project.