Loss of heat and power were determined to be an inconvenience as the priority response and attention turned to the devastated coastline and floods. But the suburban and rural inconvenience quickly turned into dangerously cold conditions. Cellphones, the only lifeline to the outside, began losing charge and darkness came early with the change to day light savings time. In most communities, the response had to be local since so many roads were impassable. Churches, neighbors and schools became the first responders for comfort, warmth and information. Fortunately on October 31, 2 days after the storm, the Sussex County YMCA had power. The 32,500 square foot facility was operational and had what many neighbors did not – CAPACITY. They were not open for business….they were open for the community. Word spread that the power, warmth and hot showers were open to all.
While Y programs were put on hold, over 5,000 thousand members and visitors shared the resources and compassion the Sussex County YMCA had to offer. “Being a good community citizen, there was no question in our minds that the doors would be open to everyone who needed us.” Jen Gardner, Sussex County YMCA (http://www.metroymcas.org/
Looking over the past two weeks, the YMCA provided power, provided a hot shower, Fellowship, Child Care, access to facilities, and free open swim times to more than 5,000 visitors. They acted as a polling station when designated voting venues were not accessible.
One thing that we cannot count or measure is the impact we had on the children, families and individuals – we gave them a little bit on normalcy in what could have been a disquieting week .
From free open gym time for children to run and play with friends, charging stations for parents so they can continue to work or call family members, to the basic need of warm showers; the East Orange YMCA (http://www.metroymcas.org/
“The first few days, our gym did not have power but we opened the doors for children and families.” Marcia Meehan, South Mountain YMCA Executive Director said. “It was a place for the community to come together to find some routine that was familiar to them in this stressful situation.”