At the state and local levels, members of NJEA—indeed all residents of New Jersey—have responded to Hurricane Sandy with a force to match its winds and waves. While the storm closed schools and cancelled the NJEA Convention, members left relatively unscathed used the unexpected time off to reach out to their students and their neighbors to offer help.
Here’s just a sample of the great work our members have been doing:
- The Union Beach E.A. hosted a dinner “Honoring our Heroes” at St. Joseph’s School to acknowledge its mayor, town council, police and fire departments, emergency medical services, and educators for all of their hard work and dedication in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Learn more
- The Randolph Education Association and other community groups "adopted" the Manasquan school district. They collected over 500 toys, letters, cards and craft items and donated them to the children of Manasquan before the holidays. They also donated over $14,000 in gift cards to the families of Manasquan.
- The Norwood Education Association reached out to a fellow educator whose house was struck by Hurricane Sandy. A collection of gift cards and monetary donations were placed on a "Giving Tree" for the local educator.
- Lisa Pheysey, Denville Education Association member and instrumental music teacher, and her husband, Tom, drove a van full of donated instruments to Union Beach Middle School so they could hold a holiday benefit concert for their community. Learn more
- The Marlboro Township Education Association has "adopted" Bay Head School. MTEA Secretary/PRIDE Chair, Kathy Bartsche, put together a collection of supplies, graciously donated by MTEA members. In addition to these supply delivery, MTEA President Robin Zegas purchased a mass amount of school materials and storage boxes. The MTEA members and the local PTO have filled the boxes with individual school supplies, for each and every student in the Bay Head Elementary School. Learn more
- Micheal Dunlea, Stafford Education Association, former county teacher of the year, pulled teachers together to begin removing damaged contents from homes in Beach Haven West, Long Beach Island, and surrounding communities. The effort began Nov. 1 and grew from about 15 teachers to over 300 volunteers from school district staff, students, Airmen, and out-of-town and out-of-state volunteers. To date they have cleared over 400 homes. They’ve also created a Facebook page to increase volunteer support. Learn more
- On Sunday, Nov. 11, at the NJEA UniServ office in Toms River, NJEA members in Ocean County, joined by NJEA staff and the executive committee of the Ocean County Council of Education Associations, created “back-to-school” kits for teachers and students. Each displaced teacher received a tub of teaching supplies and students received a backpack filled with students supplies. Teachers also received gift cards in their supply kit to purchase additional items. Learn more
- On Saturday, Nov. 17, a similar effort to the Ocean County effort above, occurred at NJEA Headquarters for Union Beach students. Materials were delivered on Monday, Nov. 19. Learn more
- Moorestown Education Association members in Burlington County gathered relief supplies and other items. They delivered these to Atlantic City area to the Red Cross. In addition, the Gloucester Township EA rallied their members and donated a pickup truck and van full of blankets, gloves, hats, food, cleaning supplies, and batteries. Their donations were dropped off to Moorestown for the trip to Atlantic City. Learn more
- Hopatcong Education Association, including former N.J. Teacher of the Year Danielle Kovach, has been working closely with the Red Cross to assist at the shelter at Hopatcong High School. On Sunday, Nov. 4, the HEA put together a Halloween Party at the shelter for the students. Since the closing of the shelter they have continued to take the lead in healing the community and have also sought assistance through social media. They are currently working to ensure that folks have a decent Thanksgiving despite the circumstances.
- Members in Buena provided leadership at the shelter at Buena High School, particularly custodian Brian Currie.
- Toms River bus drivers volunteered their services to evacuate residents from the shore prior to Hurricane Sandy. Of the 160 buses in the district fleet, the president of the Toms River Transportation Association, Florence Larrison, estimates that 130 were pressed into service. Drivers not only operated their buses, but assisted evacuees as they navigated the process of “checking-in” to a shelter. Even with school opened, drivers are still transporting displaced persons into and out of shore communities as they gather basic belongings and assess damage. In addition, according to Flo, virtually every employee in the district from top administration to support staff have been working tirelessly in shelters and on behalf of those most seriously affected by the storm in every way you can imagine. Learn more
- Vineland school teachers responded to the call from OCNJCARE for volunteers in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. They went door to door during their recent hiatus assessing the needs of Ocean City residents and then reported back to the citizen organization that is spearheading relief efforts in the community in cooperation with the City, Chamber of Commerce and many partner organizations. Bilingual teachers translated phone calls from Latino residents. At this point CARE reports that the pressing need is for cash donations to assist people find temporary housing and to cover disaster related injuries. Checks may be mailed to OCNJCARE, PO 807, Ocean City, N.J. 08226, or drop donation off at Ocean City Home Bank, 10th and Asbury Ave. or access www.ocnjcare.org.
- NJEA itself has launched a “Back to School Fund” and a “Back to School Effort,” both intended to provide direct assistance to help schools get up and running, and to facilitate matching local associations and members looking to help with schools in need of assistance. Learn more
- AID-NJEA, a help-line (866-AID-NJEA) that is a joint venture of NJEA and UMDNJ, continues to provide counseling and advice to members and their families in need.
- North Plainfield Education Association collected donations, and volunteered their time to serve their community and the kids they teach a warm meal after 10 days without power.
- Little Egg Harbor Township Education Association provided hot meals for displaced families and those without power. On Nov. 2 alone, they cooked, packaged and sent out 800 breakfasts and 1,200 lunches. Learn more
- At the shelters in Pleasantville, members of the Pleasantville Education Association and other staff—including the superintendent, spent days serving food and tending to the people. In the end our maintenance and custodial staff spent the weekend cleaning and sanitizing schools so that they were ready for the students.
- The Teaneck Township Education Association partnered with the local PBA for a food drive on Friday, Nov. 9.
- Trenton Education Association members as well as members of the other NJEA locals, such as the Trenton Paraprofessionals Association, partnered with the district’s food service provider to serve lunches to families in Trenton that lost power or suffered other losses in the days after the storm.
- The Wall Township Education Association set up a relief collection and distribution center in their association office.
In short, name a shelter and you’ll have found NJEA members volunteering in the relief efforts on the days their schools were closed, and outside of school hours on the days their schools were open.