By TIM KELLY
To “hit the ground running” is an aspiration with most new programs or enterprises, but for the newly re-started OCNJ CARE, it’s a misnomer.
The organization, charged with helping locals in need as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, never hit the ground. It simply took off.
“We’ve had a pretty good month,” said its chair, Ocean City resident Drew Fasy. “We were lucky to have the infrastructure in place from our Hurricane Sandy roots.”
Fasy was quick to praise the responsive nature of Ocean City’s civic and business leaders, as well as the rank and file citizenry of the town in helping the organization to start achieving its mission almost immediately. This was no small task given the gravity, and unprecedented nature of the situation.
“When we launched the group after Hurricane Sandy (in 2012) we knew the issues: damaged homes and damaged businesses,” Fasy explained. “We correctly anticipated what the problems would be. This time around (the pandemic) is a completely different animal. We are meeting the challenges as they arise.”
OCNJ CARE is a non-profit organization charged with raising funds, identifying those in need, recruiting and organizing volunteers, and delivering the aid where it is needed.
Fasy said City Council President Peter Madden and lifelong Ocean City resident Jennifer Bowman have been instrumental in making things work so well.
“Pete was the first person I called, and not only did he immediately jump in and help, he’s been as active and helpful to the organization and to the community as anyone,” Fasy said. “He’s just a stand-up guy and a real leader.”
As for Bowman, “Jennifer has taken so much on her shoulders and carried much of the load,” said Fasy. “She is great at seeing problems and finding solutions. She’s done so much and works so well with the other members of the group.”
The results have been stellar thus far. Among the highlights:
- The “Red Raider Special” program: Bowman, in concert with Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Taylor and OCSD Business Administrator Tim Kelley, Pastor Larry Oksten of St. Peter’s United Methodist Church, and Ocean City High School’s Kathy Sykes organized food donations to provide supplemental meals for students in need. Local restaurants Jon & Patty’s, Cousin’s, Piccini and Augie’s provided the food for this ongoing program.
- “Helping Hands:” Working with the Waves of Caring organization and St. Peter’s, supplemental groceries have been provided for OCSD families struggling during the crisis.
- VFW Post Commander Mike Morrissey launched a hot meals program for folks in need. Local restaurants Jon & Patty’s, Piccini, Luigi’s and Randazzo’s have stepped up and partnered in this program.
- Neighbors helping neighbors: More than 50 volunteers have been paired with less fortunate residents to work “one on one” running errands, picking up and delivering medications, food and the like. Local businesses, including the Spotted Whale, also volunteered in making deliveries.
- Easter dinners: Madden, Tom Heist, Mike Connelly and Carlo Marsini of Marsini’s Kitchen in Somers Point delivered 64 Easter Sunday dinners to residents of Wesley by the Bay assisted living facility. The meals were purchased by Ocean City’s Wilson Plumbing and Heating.
- Protective masks and gloves were provided for staff members of the Ocean City Housing Authority. This was made possible through the efforts of OCHA Executive Director Jacqueline Jones, Councilman Bob Barr, and Councilman Keith Hartzell, with the gloves and masks donated by Jilly’s Boardwalk stores.
- Medical grade mask donations for first responders at area hospitals. Local residents Billy Godfrey, Matt Moon, Steve McCusker and Tony Wilson purchased the masks and set up a crowdfunding site to raise money to purchase hundreds of the needed masks.