About 100 people found a haven from Superstorm Sandy last week at the YM-YWHA of Union County.
An island of energy in an otherwise blacked-out area, the Y in Union fed and entertained people, let them recharge their phones and devices, and offered that most precious commodity — warmth.
About a dozen people slept over — each family in a room to themselves — on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
“It took us a day to get powered up,” said executive vice president Bryan Fox. “Last year, with Tropical Storm Irene, we suffered about $50,000 in damage to equipment from the power surges, so this time [maintenance director] Hugo Sanchez and I spent two days closing everything down in preparation for the storm — the computers and air conditioners, and pumps, and so on. And then we had to get it all up and working again.”
The only deficit was the Internet connection. The Y let the community know by word of mouth, and through the efforts of staffers working from home computers.
Fox and assistant executive director Jani Jonas went shopping, and then — with help from staff members and volunteers — turned The Nosh, the center’s snack bar, into a fast-food restaurant. “We made breakfast, lunch, and supper,” Jonas said. “To keep the kids entertained, we had arts and crafts, and we showed movies in the auditorium.”
Roanna Pascher, the president of the Y, was among those enjoying the facilities. She and her family live in Hillside and were without light and heat until Sunday afternoon. They opted to sleep at home, but she and her three children spent the post-storm days at the Y, happy, she said, to have warmth and comfort, and good company.
“Each of the children reacted in their own way: My eldest was very concerned, the middle one was happy so long as he had his entertainment, and my little one stayed attached to me like an elastic band,” she said. “It made it easier for me to appear relaxed and unstressed, so that they wouldn’t pick up stress from me.”
The Y closed for Shabbat, but by then the crowds had thinned anyway as the nearby Jewish Educational Center opened its own respite facilities (see related story). Jonas, who had slept over at the Y with her husband and dog to make sure everyone was safe and comfortable, said she was happy to begin getting back to normal — and their next influx of people — for the much happier cause, the Annual Fair and Expo (see sidebar).