They had no lights or heat of their own, but the staff at Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey — after being out of commission on Monday and Tuesday — were partially back in action by Wednesday, and up and running by last Thursday, Nov. 1.
The agency had no telephone connection, but their regular 24-hour answering service was taking messages and the staff called in periodically from their cell phones. They also linked up with the emergency hotline offered by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
Most important was their outreach to their frail elderly clients. With the regular catering services of the YM-YWHA of Union County, JFS, a beneficiary agency of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, was able to send out kosher meals-on-wheels to the 100 people who were having to make do without their regular weekday lunches since the storm hit. The social workers, registered nurses, and aid workers who provide home health care and housekeeping to about 200 people were also back on track.
On Monday, Nov. 5, still without power in the headquarters building on Westfield Avenue in Elizabeth, executive director Tom Beck met in his office with his senior staff, all of them wrapped in puffy coats but upbeat and cracking wry storm jokes. “As far as we know, everyone is doing fine,” Beck said.
By then the agency had counseling services, at its Clark office as well as at headquarters. The food pantry was up and running, and had provided groceries to a number of families in dire need. On the urgent “to do” list was updated home safety assessments for homebound clients.
JFS staff had the added benefit of being able to park in their own parking lot, thanks to a group of students from the Jewish Educational Center’s Rav Teitz Mesivta boys high school. During the storm, a large tree on the perimeter fell, damaging the fence and blocking the driveway. Teen volunteers came along and sawed up and removed the branches and bags of other storm debris.
“Now we’re back to planning our Centennial Dinner,” Beck said. The event, the organization’s major annual fund-raiser, is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 18, at 6 p.m. at the Crystal Plaza in Livingston. Sen. Bob Menendez will be the keynote speaker, and the Lilly K. Gottlieb Award for service will be presented to David Hutt and Ron Shimanowitz.
For more information and to ask about JFS services, contact the agency at 908-352-8375 or info@JFSCentralNJ.org.