In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the Visitation Relief Center grew from a small volunteer kitchen to one of the area’s largest relief organizations, branching out from traditional food and clothing relief to a myriad of volunteer activities that have included environmental cleanup, a community garden and home rebuilding.
Approaching 30 months from Sandy’s landfall, Visitation – located adjacent to the Catholic church of the same name – is one of the few storm relief organizations that remain in northern Ocean County. “Business,” so to speak, is – unfortunately – good.
“We have residents still sleeping in cars, and in homes with no power or water,” said Christie Winters, director of the relief center. “Many nonprofits are shutting down and closing due to a lack of funding.”
Winters recently told Brick officials at a township council meeting that the remaining relief organizations may suffer a lack of funding come Oct. 30, when the Disaster Case Management program is scheduled to sunset. The program, run by Catholic Charities but funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, focuses on unresolved housing issues and other problems local residents are experiencing during recovery. The program has been extended on numerous occasions, allowing the Visitation Relief Center to continue to operate to the extent it has, but Winters said she is concerned officials in Washington may consider recovery complete after three years.
“Recovery is not even close to being complete,” she said.
For now, the relief center will continue its impressive volunteer effort, which has contributed $3,708,000 million to local storm recovery projects, logged 119,000 volunteer hours, handled 3,182 family intakes and rehabilitated 287 homes. Additionally, the relief center volunteers have grown 2,332 pounds of fresh vegetables harvested from its community garden and removed 536 tons of debris from environmentally sensitive areas.
Volunteers at the relief center are currently working on their spring cleaning program, Winters said. Donations of household goods and cleaning items are being requested, and can be dropped off the center any time.
“We have been very, very busy and very proud to serve our town and the surrounding communities,” Winters said.