Company ‘Embraces’ Sea Bright Recovery

June 6, 2014
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SBRising-check-IMG_0137By John Burton

SEA BRIGHT – Additional help has arrived for Sea Bright.

Representatives of the Farmers Insurance arrived this week, along with what will be upward of 200 employees who will volunteer with other on-the-ground organizations, to assist in the area’s post-Super Storm Sandy rebuilding efforts. Farmers Insurance also will donate $50,000 to Sea Bright Rising, an organization established to assist in Sandy recovery work.

According to Charles Browning, head of sponsorships, events and corporate giving for the 87-year-old Los Angeles, California-based insurance national insurance company, one of the company’s founding principles has always been “to embrace the community.”

The company founders “felt a real sense of responsibility in making sure to give back,” Browning said in a phone interview on Tuesday as he traveled to Monmouth County.

Along with the volunteer efforts and cash contribution, Browning will be providing a copy of the Disaster Recovery Playbook to the community. That volume offers lessons on “managing the process” for communities dealing with significant disasters, Browning said.

The playbook, a compilation of best practices for disaster recovery, grew out of the company’s work to rebuild the Joplin, Mo., community that was cut down by tornadoes, Browning said.

One of the major lessons learned from that experience, Browning said, was “to make sure you have a group of leaders to step up when disaster strikes” and to coordinate all the disparate efforts that emerge.

About 240 Farmers employees volunteered in Joplin, helping rebuild about 30 homes, according to Browning.

It was also through Farmers’ work in Joplin, that Browning met Zack Rosenberg, who heads up the St. Bernard Project, which was working on rebuilding efforts there. St. Bernard Project has been working in Sea Bright and advised Browning about the continuing need in the Monmouth County seashore community still recovering from the October 2012 storm.

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While Farmers Insurance doesn’t have offices or agents currently in New Jersey, it has a large contingent about two hours away in Delaware. “Sea Bright made sense to us,” Browning said.

Volunteers will work with the St. Bernard Project, AmeriCorps workers and Sea Bright Rising, coordinating efforts and offering needed sweat equity.

“We’re going to be painting, doing drywall, siding,” he said. “A little bit of everything.”

The volunteers are expected to work here until at least the end of the year, Browning said.

“I’m ecstatic about it. I couldn’t be more happy,” said Chris Wood, a Sea Bright business owner and cofounder of Sea Bright Rising, about Farmers’ contribution.

Sea Bright Rising has collected roughly $1.5 million in donations from corporate sponsorships and private individuals.

“This is another shot in the arm,” Wood said.

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