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SEA BRIGHT: COUNSELING SERVICE AVAILABLE

Greg Russo records an interview with Sea Bright resident Joey, who declined to give his last name, for a video blog. Below, cubicles set up for private consultations in the borough community center. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Six months removed from Hurricane Sandy, Sea Bright residents are still grappling with recovery and rebuilding challenges.

According to the borough’s volunteer coordinator, Frank Lawrence, many residents continue to face an uphill battle with insurance and construction issues, financial woes and severe emotional strain.

To help its residents deal with these overwhelming problems, the borough has partnered with several local and national charities to put together the Sea Bright Resource Center, a place where case managers, counseling services and more are readily available free of charge.

Professionally trained case managers from Catholic Charities in Trenton are on hand in the borough, dedicated to giving one-on-one, confidential support to residents inside the borough’s Cecil F. Norton Community Building, in newly installed cubicles, designed to add a level of privacy inside the acoustically-sound gymnasium .

“They are here to lend their services, and help our residents get as close to normal as possible,” Lawrence said. “They can help navigate things like working with FEMA, managing contractors, and making connections with charity organizations that are here to help.”

Lawrence said the effort is “about the long-term picture, and working over an extended period of time with someone,” but that the interactions are meant to address immediate needs as well.

“We’ve had people come in here that had been sleeping on couches because their temporary housing fell through,” he said. “The case managers can help immediately in those situations.”

Also inside the Resource Center are cubicles dedicated to charity organizations, including Sea Bright Rising and Habitat for Humanity, as well as those there to assist in the emotional rebuilding of the town, like counseling services Hope and Healing and CPC Behavioral Health.

“The counseling services are here in-house as well,” Lawrence said. “But they’ve also been walking around town, going door-to-door, introducing themselves and just trying to get a feel for the town and the people here.”

Another facet of the Recovery Center’s long term rebuilding plan is the launch of a new website, designed to be a central online hub for all things Sea Bright, including FAQ’s, building advice and instructions, a weekly newsletter, and an “Angie’s List” of contractors and builders residents have used with full reviews, according to Lawrence.

Greg Russo, who came to the Recovery Center via the Friendship Train Foundation, another group that helped spearhead the project, is even going into home in the borough, videotaping success stories to create a video blog on the site.

“Being able to actually show success stories is a big step towards our goal,” Lawrence said. “People that have had good fortune dealing with contractors and going through the rebuilding process can be very inspiring for those still working through it. They can point us in the right way.”

“The site can be a big addition to our long-term recovery plan,” Russo said. “The key for us is getting the residents to head in the right direction, to get them back – or close – to normalcy, and to get them back into their houses in a good state of mind.”

The Resource Center is operational most days and evenings during the week – though calling ahead for an appointment is advised. Lawrence and Russo see room for possible expansion on the horizon.

“We’d like to have an office to call our own, whether it’s a stand-alone structure or an offshoot inside another building,” Lawrence said. “We’re making it work here, but it’s obviously not the ideal, so we’ll see what we can do in the long-run – though hopefully we won’t even need to be here at all in a couple years, hopefully by then our job will be done.”

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