OceanFirst Foundation makes its home in Toms River, New Jersey and OceanFirst Bank has served the Jersey shore markets of Ocean and Monmouth Counties for more than a 100 years. So when Superstorm Sandy made landfall and left a devastating impact in so many of the coastal communities served by OceanFirst, they knew quickly that they would need to have a role in both the immediate relief and long term recovery efforts – their customers, colleagues and community were counting on them.
Like many, the Foundation was challenged in the days following Sandy with no power and access to the tools typically used in the course of business. So it was no easy task to reach out to their network of grantees and community organizations that they knew people would turn to for help. In the days following, they worked outside the box to mobilize resources to help long-time grantees – key anchor organizations and trusted partners – that would have the capacity to address the most basic urgent needs. OceanFirst Foundation’s Board quickly established a $500,000 Sandy Recovery Grant Program and strategic grants were made to address both immediate relief and long term recovery needs. This required great flexibility and a simplification of the Foundation’s grant making process.
Within weeks, OceanFirst Foundation provided the seed funding for and worked with County government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to host the first gathering of 150 community leaders and citizens from all sectors and neighborhoods to begin talking about and working on a path to recovery. From this dialogue, the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group (OCLTRG) was established with a mission of strengthening and streamlining disaster coordination and response. A similar organization was established in Monmouth County shortly thereafter (Monmouth County Long Term Recovery Group – MCLTRG). They supported the work of both organizations and provided the groups with grant writing and fundraising support to ensure they had resources at their disposal to address the unmet needs of those impacted. In addition, they provided grants to both organizations to support operating costs and unmet needs.
The Foundation partnered with key recovery organizations to host and sponsor a legislative briefing to keep elected officials informed of recovery challenges and solutions. OceanFirst Foundation also worked closely with the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers to organize a daylong tour of disaster-affected shore communities with speakers crossing all sectors. This helped inform Council members of the incredible challenges and issues that lied ahead in recovery and helped jump start conversations about how members could be a part of the State’s recovery.
OceanFirst also responded to inquiries from philanthropic organizations across the country about local needs and potential partners. They played the important role of “match-maker” that resulted in millions of dollars and resources being invested in the shore’s recovery. Through it all they learned right alongside their neighbors about disaster recovery, what works and the value of having a long-term recovery plan.