A Look Back, Part 11: Responding to Disaster

Hurricane Sandy Relief & Recovery

11.1 - Horse Shoe CrabsWhen a disaster strikes, the work of a community foundation takes on added importance.  And in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Community Foundation took on an important leadership role in harnessing the good will of thousands of New Jerseyans seeking to help their friends and neighbors recover.

Whether it was the $10 personal contribution from a woman in Vermont or the major gift from the National Mah Jongg League Foundation, a broad array of support allowed the Community Foundation to move quickly to establish two funds – a Relief Fund dedicated to critical community needs and a Recovery Fund focused on long-term planning and sound rebuilding.

Having learned from the experiences of Louisiana, Haiti, and Japan, the Community Foundation’s staff emphasized to all those reaching out that the true cost of a natural disaster is felt over time.  Communities may struggle well after federal and state funds run out.  And many nonprofits will need time to get back on their feet following sharp increases in demand for their services.

The Community Foundation understood that as an advocate for the state’s communities, it could play a unique role in the state’s recovery.  Along with its partners, the Community Foundation focused on post-storm resiliency, equity of relief and recovery efforts, and collaborative communication among responders, as well as severely overlooked issues such as impacts on mental health.

11.2 Hoboken AmbulanceAfter the hurricane hit, the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund provided support in places like Morristown to support an emergency feeding program, Atlantic City to re-open a youth crisis shelter closed by the storm, Hoboken to help the Volunteer Ambulance Corps replace destroyed equipment, Keansburg to provide Thanksgiving dinners to displaced families, and Union Beach to support clean-up efforts.

The New Jersey Recovery Fund raised more than $5 million, thanks to partnerships with the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and other nonprofits, corporations, and major foundations. These dollars were invested in projects aimed at responsible planning.  It was important that as communities rebuilt, they did so in ways that prevent such devastation from occurring again.  Working with the best planners as well as environmental, transportation, and commercial stakeholders, the Fund’s focus was on preparing communities for all forms of disasters and mitigating their potential impacts.