December 7, 2012 at 7:00 AM
MADISON, NJ - On Nov. 26, the Madison Borough Council agreed to partner with Union Beach to support their restoration efforts in rebuilding the town post Hurricane Sandy. On Thursday afternoon, a special town hall meeting was held to discuss how Madison residents can help.
After Mayor Bob Conley and delegates met with Union Beach officials, it was determined that efforts would be directed towards three main areas residential disaster relief, the Union Beach school and Project PAUL, a regional organization that offers social services, a food pantry and thrift shop.
Suggestions were given on how people can volunteer their time and many groups including the Madison Junior School, Drew University and Investors Bank are fundraising and some are even going to Union Beach. Residents can mail money and gift cards to the “Union Beach disaster relief fund” and donate building supplies and home goods.
There were 200 homes destroyed, 85 percent of those remaining sustained flood damage, there were portions of the town under 10 feet of water and there were 14 police cars lost. While power was recently restored, the town still needs help, Conley said.
Councilman Robert Landrigan said comparing what Madison and Union Beach went through is like night and day. While Madison was cleaned up quickly, Union Beach is just finishing assessing the damage, he said. The town needs electricians and health inspectors, he emphasized.
“The approach that needs to be taken at Union Beach is nothing like what we have seen here,” Landrigan said. “You want to get as many people back in their homes, a safe home that’s healthy for them, as quickly as possible.”
Madison resident and retired educator Peg Codey said the education system is in dire need of help in Union Beach. Normally there is one school for kindergarten through eighth grade, but the super storm flooded the building and caused the students to be relocated throughout the town.
“Their athletic program is also the heart of their community,” she said.
Codey said the athletic fields are toxic and new gym equipment is needed. They created an education foundation where they are going to accept donations and it is the best way to help them, she said.
Recently, the Peer Leaders at the Junior School held a movie night fundraiser and the Student Council is going down there soon to help as well.
“It’s amazing and wonderful that we can help out, even though we’re young,” said Student Council President Owen Matthews.
Madison resident Martin Heller said he is very impressed with what the borough is doing.
“Here’s a town that’s in desperate need and we’re there to be assistance as best we can without overwhelming them so they keep their identity and their character,” Heller said.