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Flood victims assisted with long term recovery

Thursday, October 20, 2011

As Hurricane Irene closed in on northeast New Jersey in late August, NewBridge snapped into action. 

Employees made sure clients, including seniors living alone, were safe and prepared for the possibility of having to leave their homes. They relocated clients whose homes had previously flooded. And at a state shelter set up at the Mennen Arena in Morris Township, NewBridge counselors helped calm some of the 500 South Jersey evacuees waiting Irene out.

In the days that followed, when so much of the Morris and Passaic communities served by NewBridge were under water, NewBridge employees rolled up their sleeves to help. 

As part of a team of community first responders, NewBridge counselors went to shelters, church halls and other places victims gathered to provide psychological first aid for those devastated by the floods.

“People were depressed and in fear. We talked to people who were out of their homes and at a loss about their futures. We got them to take a deep breath and reduce their anxiety,’’ said NewBridge Chief Operating Officer L. Michelle Borden.  “What we do is help people regain composure and use coping skills so they can do what they need to get through the crisis.’’ 

Borden, a licensed clinical social worker who also is certified by the state as a disaster response crisis counselor, volunteered at a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recovery center in Paterson. She worked with flood victims who had to gather documentation – for some, records were destroyed – and fill out detailed paperwork. “When you are under tremendous stress, it’s hard to think out those steps logically,’’ Borden said. Having someone by their side helps ease the feeling of isolation, reassuring them that they have support.

While the waters of the Ramapo, Pequannock and Passaic rivers have receded, the ripples of the disaster will last for months – and NewBridge, again, will be there to help.  “It’s natural for a flood of emotions to follow an actual flood,’’ Borden said. “As waters recede, the true impact bubbles to the surface and people are confronted with the emotional and financial fallout.’’

 Having been a partner on the front lines with other community organizations, NewBridge will take a lead role in the next phase of recovery, helping individuals and families over the long haul.  NewBridge has received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide ongoing crisis counseling to residents affected by the historic flooding.

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