Written by Christina Johnson
Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn are coming to Union Beach on October 12 to help Habitat for Humanity rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in Union Beach.
Their visit comes nearly one year after the storm, and on the 30th anniversary of the The Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. The Carters are also scheduled to volunteer at affordable housing projects in Oakland, San Jose, Denver and New York City.
"We're ecstatic the Carters are coming," said Ray Gabler, the director of operations for Habit for Humanity Monmouth County, based in Long Branch. "This is bringing attention to Sandy victims of low and moderate income all along the Jersey shore. We're really excited."
The goal is to repair 13 homes and construct two new ones in the Raritan Bay borough of Union Beach, where 270 homes have been demolished since Sandy. The small town was battered by winds and swamped by surging tidal water in the Oct. 29 storm.
Habitat for Humanity has identified the homes destined for repair, and is finalizing plans with two families for new construction. The new homes are being made possible by funding from the Carter's organization, and Wells Fargo, said Gabler.
Union Beach Mayor Paul J. Smith has been keeping the news close to his vest for months, he said, and Secret Service officers have already visited. Smith said he is thrilled to welcome Jimmy Carter, 88, and Rosalynn Carter, 86. "I think it's a big boost," he said. "We still have some people hurting, but we have had so many beautiful volunteers come forward."
Yesterday, Borough Hall started making plans to offer Carter a key to city, and flowers to his wife "so he always remembers us," the mayor said.
Habitat is still accepting applications for homeowner help, and accepting volunteers for work through their website. Gabler said Habit has been doing most its home repair work in Union Beach, but has also been working in Keansburg, Port Monmouth, Belford, Highlands, Atlantic Highlands and Sea Bright."Our work is not going to stop after the Carter project," said Gabler. "We view this as a multi-year effort."
Volunteers can contact the Laura Lella-Smith, the Development Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity in Monmouth County at email@example.com or call the office at (732)728-0441.
Other groups that have been actively working to reconstruct homes in Union Beach are Gateway Church of Christ in Holmdel, the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County and the RAINE Foundation based in Hazlet, said Smith, as well as volunteers from Colts Neck, Madison, and numerous organizations.