Employees of the Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living in Somerset, who suffered devastating losses after Hurricane Sandy, have received help from the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County.
After hearing of the loss of homes and property, federation donated $1,700 in gift cards to be distributed to employees. The cards were donated to federation as part of its Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund, which also brought in more than $52,000 in monetary donations.
“The dedicated employees of the Wilf campus spend their days taking care of the most vulnerable members of our community,” said federation executive director Gerrie Bamira. “When we discovered that these workers themselves were devastated by the effects of Hurricane Sandy, we were glad to have the opportunity to provide them with some relief.”
Campus CEO Susan Harris told NJJN that “a number of our employees got creamed” by Sandy, losing cars, homes, and possessions. She said the federation had reached out to her and called the gifts “wonderful.”
“All these affected people live in or near the Middlesex federation area, mostly Keansburg and Sayreville,” she said. “That whole area just got decimated. One of our employee’s family actually had to be rescued from their attic.”
Harris said she was impressed by the staff’s commitment to the elderly residents they cared for throughout the crisis and their response to adversity.
“They came to work with smiles on their faces,” she said. “I don’t know that I could do this. Here they were caring for older folks despite what was going on in their own lives.”
When Harris’s search for hotel rooms for employees with nowhere to go proved fruitless, she said, the campus allowed some employees and their families to stay at the facility for several days, providing them with meals.
Among them was Kelly Bell, a nurse at the facility for almost nine years, who told NJJN that her Keansburg home was destroyed by flooding. “It’s still standing there, but it’s been condemned and everything in it has been destroyed,” she said.
Even worse, said Bell, a single mother of a nine-year-old daughter, is that she had bought the home —the first she has ever owned — only six months before the storm.
After spending four days at the campus, mother and daughter moved in with friends and are currently sleeping on couches in her uncle’s home.
“It’s quite devastating for me and is really devastating for my daughter,” said Bell. “FEMA gave everybody who lost a home two months’ rent and offered hotel rooms that really weren’t available. I felt completely lost until, thank God, these kind people here took me under their wing. They helped put me in touch with the people I needed to be in touch with and were mentally and physically supportive.”
She said the facility not only continued to provide her with meals when she was on duty, but would send food home for her and her daughter and provide her with gas money. Additionally, the families of residents continually offered her support.
“I spent the first few weeks crying, I was so grateful,” said Bell. “I can’t even say how much it helped. It really took off some of the pressure and stress.”
But, it was the federation gift cards that proved most meaningful to her daughter .
“My daughter lost all her toys,” said Bell. “Around Christmastime it helped replace some of the things she lost.”