SEA BRIGHT – For some still trying to get their homes repaired 15 months after Super Storm Sandy, help is on the way.
Sea Bright Rising has announced a partnership with St. Bernard Project, a Louisiana-based, not-for-profit organization that assists communities affected by natural disasters.
The organization will be establishing an operation here with Sea Bright Rising to rebuild damaged homes in Sea Bright, Rumson and Highlands, said Ilene Winters, Sea Bright Rising’s director.
As it has for previous disasters, St. Bernard Project will work with AmeriCorps, the federally sponsored community service organization which will provide leadership and training for the project, Winters said.
AmeriCorps members will serve as site supervisors at the homes to be rehabilitated and renovated, Winters said. Those involved in the new partnership and people with AmeriCorps will reach out to their network of organizations – including houses of worship, corporate sponsors and community groups – to recruit volunteers. They will seek as many with experience as possible to work with the site supervisors on the damaged homes, she said.
The hope is to restore roughly 300 homes in the three communities heavily impacted by the Oct. 29, 2012, storm. The project will probably take upward of 2 ½ years; cost estimates are $2.5 million with Sea Bright Rising taking the lead role in fundraising to finance the project, Winters said.
St. Bernard Project was quick to respond following Sandy, sending representatives shortly after the storm to establish a foothold in the communities to help.
However, Winters said, the project “needed a viable partner on the ground.” Initially, there wasn’t one in place as Sea Bright Rising was just starting at that point.
Now that Sea Bright Rising is an established, high–profile not-for-profit at this point, “I think it’s a great fit,” Winters said. “It’s an opportunity to do wonderful things for people who really need it.”
Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long called the partnership “a dream come true. The St. Bernard Project “has a track record and experience using volunteer skilled labor to help homeowners leverage their home repair dollars,” she said.
The project will establish criteria for those seeking help, requiring homeowners to remain in those homes for a specific time following the work. The project will concentrate on those who haven’t been able to afford to get the necessary work done. Because of the time that has lapsed since the storm, “we have to assume the bulk of people who have yet to rebuild fit the criteria,” Winters said.
The partnership could be an opportunity for those who have walked away from damaged properties to find help and return, Winters added.
The emphasis will be on repairs and not rebuilding or elevating homes to meet federal flood mitigation standards – at least initially, Long noted.
“They may deal with that later on,” she said.
Over the holidays Long had the opportunity to visit New Orleans and the St. Bernard Project’s headquarters there. “I was really impressed by the kind of operation they run and the amount of homes they’ve rebuilt,” she said.
St. Bernard Project was founded in March 2006 to rebuild homes in the St. Bernard Parish of Louisiana destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
To date the organizations and its volunteers have rebuilt more than 479 homes, according to the organization’s website.
In addition to Katrina, Long said the group has worked in Missouri helping communities recover from damaged caused by tornados; and has worked in the Sandy-damaged communities of Rockaway and Staten Island, N.Y.
Reese May, director of east coast operations for St. Bernard, did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.
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