Ocean County Press Release
FEMA Disaster Recovery Center Now at Southern Service Center
1/09/2013

STAFFORD TOWNSHIP – When the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders officially opened the doors of the Ocean County Southern Service Center in 2011, the plan was to use the building to help southern Ocean County residents access county services.

"Making county services accessible is a priority for this Board," said Freeholder Director John P. Kelly. "This was yet another step we took to meet that goal."

Little did the Board know that the center would become a focal point in the county's efforts to assist residents in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

"During the days after the storm, the National Guard was housed at the facility. In addition, because St. Francis Center on Long Beach Island was heavily damaged by the storm, the center relocated its food pantry, some counseling services and the home delivered meal program to the Southern Service Center. The building also played an integral role in the November 2012 Presidential Election and now the Federal Emergency Management Administration is using part of the facility as a regional Disaster Recovery Center," said Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety. "All the while we are continuing to offer county services from this site."

Ocean County opened the Ocean County Southern Service Center, located at the corner of Routes 9 and 72 in Manahawkin, in May 2011.

"Originally, the facility was opened to provide residents of the southern portion of the county with the opportunity to access some local senior services programs, the services of the Ocean County Clerk and the Ocean County Surrogate," Kelly said. "Those services quickly expanded to include Veterans Services.

"The site continues to house those county services and now acts as a regional Disaster Recovery Center operated by FEMA," Kelly said.

Disaster survivors may visit the center to receive assistance and information. The regional center is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

FEMA staff is available at the center to provide clarification to letters, assist survivors with finding a temporary home if their primary residence was damaged or destroyed, check on the status of their application for assistance or refer survivors to other agencies that may provide additional help.
Also, survivors can consult with Small Business Administration customer service representatives about low-interest disaster loans to repair or rebuild their home and FEMA mitigation specialists about cost-effective rebuilding and repair techniques to reduce property damages in future disasters.

"We are pleased to be able to provide this facility to help so many of the county's citizens that are in need of assistance at this time," Kelly said. "Superstorm Sandy left many homes and businesses heavily damaged. Our citizens have a place to go to find answers and help."

He noted that in the two days the regional disaster recovery center has been opened about 140 people have come through the doors for assistance.

Ocean County had purchased the Route 9 facility, which had been the former St. Mary Parish Center, with an eye toward using the property for a new Stafford Township branch of the Ocean County Library.

However, the downturn in the economy resulted in those plans being delayed for the time being.

The Southern Service Center also houses some senior social/support services such as a satellite location for the Long Beach Island Senior Services and Outreach, which provides information and assistance with an array of benefits and entitlements for older adults. Additionally Visiting Home Care offers Adult Social Day Care: "A Friend's House."

Kelly noted the site works well for programs and services for several reasons including accessibility to public and local transportation, the proximity to major corridors, and adequate parking.

"Since the storm, this center has acted as a focal point for help," Kelly said. "From this site more than 250 families received Thanksgiving baskets, 675 people have been served by the food pantry, and the Ocean County Board of Social Services has provided assistance to individuals eligible for the Disaster SNAP program.

"The facility has lived up to its name as a true service center," Kelly said.

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