TJ Pruitt of Alabama Power chats with admirers in Fair Haven Monday night. Below, a gingerbread utility truck make by resident Elizabeth Drummond. (Photo above by Wil Fulton; below by Larry Quigley. Click to enlarge)


It was a homecoming of sorts for Alabama Power workers on Monday night when they made their long-awaited return to what they now can safely refer to as their “home away from home” – Fair Haven, New Jersey.

At Knollwood School, the Alabama Power workers were honored for their storm relief efforts with an official proclamation, gifts and tokens from residents and local business owners, and an audience with enough enthusiasm to match a Springsteen concert.

When workers from Alabama Power were sent to New Jersey in an effort to assist local power companies in restoring power to Hurricane Sandy-ravaged area, they viewed Fair Haven as “a little town no one had heard of,” as one of them put it. But by the time they left – with tears in their eyes, they said –  they considered the town’s people to be “family,” according to TJ Pruitt, assistant team leader.

Pruitt and Project Leader David Huddleston spoke with redbankgreen shortly before the ceremony started, reiterating sentiments voiced by most of the residents of Fair Haven throughout the night.

“Everywhere we went, we felt the love,” Pruitt said. “We’ve been to Ohio, Texas, and a lot of other places doing this type of thing, but this is truly a lovely borough.”

“The damage was horrible, but the way these people helped us – feeding us, taking care of us– was great, unexpected,” said Kirk Robinson, who worked on the ground level of operations during the storm.

Mayor Ben Lucarelli presented the workers with a plaque and opened the night by thanking the workers for “turning our lights on.” Heather Heard won praise as one of the prime movers in the volunteer effort to feed the line workers in Fair Haven Fields.

“In my opinion, we couldn’t have been luckier to have these guys on our side,” said borough Administrator Theresa Casagrande. “We’ll always remember them, just as they’ll always remember the residents of Fair Haven.”

The Alabama Power reps proved as much when they surprised everyone by presenting Lucarelli with a check for $10,000, made out to the American Red Cross on the borough’s behlf, intended to further aid in the relief process.

“To help restore the shore,” Huddleston added.

Pruitt made reference to how much the town now meant to him and his men.

“You all heard of Sweet Home Alabama?” He said. “Well, this is now Sweet Home Fair Haven.”