Bon Jovi Donation Makes a Difference in Sea Bright

January 10, 2014
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SBFA2-IMG_5161By John Burton

SEA BRIGHT – Rocker Jon Bon Jovi’s very much below-the-radar donation to Sea Bright’s First Aid and Office of Emergency Management has meant a lot to the borough this year.

After Super Storm Sandy smashed into the beachfront borough in October 2012, Bon Jovi met with some residents and business owners and quietly asked what he could do, said Councilman C. Read Murphy, who is the Office of Emergency Management coordinator. The rock ‘n’ roll star, who is a Middletown resident, was quick to help.

Murphy said shortly after the storm he pick up Bon Jovi and his wife Dorothea at Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in Rumson, which was being used as a staging area for residents and property owners when they were being permitted back in to the community after Sandy. Following the tour, Murphy told him of an immediate need for a functioning ambulance. “Jon turned to me and said ‘I’ll buy you an ambulance,’ ” Murphy said.

“We basically didn’t have an ambulance because of Sandy,” First Aid Capt. David Estelle said.

The borough’s two ambulances were damaged by the storm’s deep floodwaters, Estelle and Murphy said. One of the vehicles was destroyed by the saltwater.

“It would have cost more than it was worth to repair it,” Estelle said.

The ambulance was 12 years old with 48,000 miles on it. The second emergency vehicle was deemed somewhat salvageable; its chassis will eventually put it on a new truck.

The borough is in an ongoing legal battle with its insurance company over the ambulances, Murphy said.

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Not having a functioning ambulance was nerve-wracking for squad members. “That absolutely put lives at risk,” Murphy said.

“We were in dire need,” Estelle said.

The squad, which answered about 350 calls in 2011, traditionally handles calls coming from Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook. During the busy summer months, it’s not uncommon to have multiple calls, Murphy said. Without their own equipment, “we had to scramble,” Murphy said. The first aid squad had to rely on mutual aid from neighboring towns until the new ambulance was delivered.

Bon Jovi provided the borough’s squad with about $150,000 that allowed officials to purchase a new ambulance in February plus a 2013 Dodge Durango for the Office of Emergency Management in August.

The OEM’s Durango serves as a moving command center for emergencies, Murphy said.

“We work on a shoestring budget” of about $30,000 annually for OEM, Murphy said, that makes buying equipment or replacing it very difficult.

There is some money left over, which will allow the office to purchase some firefighting equipment, according to Murphy.

“You know, Jon didn’t have to do anything,” Murphy said. “He came to the town and offered help and sympathy and out of the blue he offered to buy the ambulance.”

“He was such a nice guy,” said Estelle who had the chance to meet him.  “Plus, I like some of his songs, too.”

To show their gratitude, squad members will be volunteering at JBJ Foundation Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, Murphy said. Soul Kitchen, a restaurant and nonprofit organization founded by Bon Jovi’s foundation, provides assistance accessing services and meals for the area needy. Patrons at the Monmouth Street restaurant can either pay a minimum of $10 for their meal or pay by doing some volunteer work.

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Attempts to reach Bon Jovi and his representatives for a comment were unsuccessful. That didn’t surprise Murphy. “He really didn’t want any attention for this,” he said.

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