February 6, 2013

As Veterans and their Loved Ones Recover from Hurricane Sandy, The GI Go Fund is there to Help

Organization does all it can to help veterans and their loved ones affected by the storm restore their lives as best as possible

GI Go Fund Volunteers provide care packages to Sandy Victims

OCEAN COUNTY, NJ - On October 29, 2012, the New York/New Jersey region was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, one of the most unpredictable and horrific natural disasters in its history. The storm killed 72 people and caused over $50 Billion in damage, making it the second-costliest storm in the nation’s history. There were at least 3,500 families in New York and New Jersey living in hotels and motels paid for by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). And for people who still have homes but no means to heat them, the winter months have been particularly tough, having taken refuge in tents set up by aid workers. And in New Jersey alone, there were over 346,000 housing units that were destroyed or damaged, and 190,000 businesses were negatively affected as well.

As this storm has afflicted millions of New Jerseyans, so many veterans of this state have endured the difficulties of Sandy as well. The hardest hit areas in New Jersey were in Ocean County, which is where over 51,000 veterans call home, according to the US Census Bureau. In addition, veterans from all over the state, from Essex and Hudson counties to Burlington and Atlantic counties, were displaced from their homes, their businesses, and their way of life for days, weeks, and now months.

All of us who call ourselves proud Americans cannot stand idly by and watch our veterans and their families go through holidays, birthdays, and the cold days of winter without heat, power, and a roof over their heads without offering our support.

Since the storm hit our area and devastated our communities, the GI Go Fund has been there to lend a helping hand. Our organization, with the help of the NJ National Guard, lent a helping hand right after the storm by providing thousands of blankets, socks, hats, and care packages with food and hygiene supplies to displaced veterans and their families, as well as hundreds of civilian homeowners whose houses were flooded or without power in Newark, Bayonne, and other areas throughout New Jersey.

“The storm had such a devastating impact on the lives of so many people,” said GI Go Fund Executive Director Jack Fanous. “Everyone we saw, both veteran and nonveteran, had their entire lives turned upside down by this storm. We just wanted to do everything that we could to ease the pain caused by this terrible situation. It is something that I feel a personal obligation to, as I know that it is something we all feel we must do in times of great need.”

But the help did not end after the storm. During the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, the organization provided over $5,000 in relief to military families devastated by Hurricane Sandy. The items included sixty $50 Gift cards to Foodtown and Walmart, dozens of brand new Harley Davidson jackets, as well as over 100 gloves, socks, hats, and other clothing materials, and new toys for children for the Christmas holiday. The toys were delivered over the course of the season to the Ocean County Veterans Service Bureau in Toms River, NJ to benefit the county with largest population of veterans in the state.

“Ocean County was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, more than any other area during the storm. Thousands of families from Seaside Heights, Toms River, and other towns in the area lost their homes and their livelihoods during this tragic storm, including countless veterans and their families who call Ocean County home. When our friends and neighbors are hurting, it is our duty to take care of them in any way we can, and to be there for them when they need it most,” said Fanous.

The job does not end there. The organization is focusing its efforts this year and beyond to help the veterans impacted by this storm. We will continue to provide aid and support similar to those offered after the storm to veterans most in need of help. In addition, we will help transport veterans living in areas most devastated by the storm to our events throughout the state, such as our Job and GI Bill Fair in Newark, where we will have FEMA and other agencies on hand that can help them connect to the disaster benefits they need to get back on their feet. Lastly, the GI Go Fund will work to help restore the shore and rebuild lives for veterans, and will dedicate its efforts to linking with groups like Habitat for Humanity to build homes along the shoreline for displaced veterans.

“We have a responsibility, as citizens and neighbors, to come together and work to help those in the greatest need find that return to normalcy they are desperately trying to reclaim,” said Fanous. “When you see someone in need of help, you don’t pity them or offer your condolences, you help them.”