On September 1, 2021, Hurricane Ida, a Category Four hurricane, dumped ten inches of rain in Hunterdon County. The rivers and streams in and around Lambertville overflowed their banks.
The flash flooding created a scene like none other in recent history. Cars were lifted and floated down streets. Families fled through chest-high water with only the clothes on their backs, leaving their belongings behind. Floodwater gushed into homes and apartment buildings, damaging both personal property and the structures themselves. Built in flood zones, many of the buildings sustained so much damage that they have since been condemned, leaving occupants in need of immediate housing solutions.
In the aftermath, Fisherman’s Mark, a forty-year-old nonprofit organization in Lambertville that provides social services as well as a food pantry to clients, quickly established the Hurricane Ida Relief Grant program. Applicants for allocated (and limited) funds were selected by a committee of volunteers and staff based on the immediacy and the extent of their needs.
“We had 65 applicants for funds within days,” said Janice Cassimatis, Intake Coordinator for Fisherman’s Mark. “Most of these families were denied funds from FEMA. A majority live on low incomes. They do not have savings or well-off relatives who can lend a hand. Even before COVID, many were living paycheck to paycheck. Losing their homes and property was more than a life-changing event. They were – and some are still – in crisis,” she said.
To date, 65 Hurricane Ida Relief grants have been approved thanks to the generosity of many donors. The money distributed has secured Lambertville housing for senior citizens who might otherwise have had to move from the area that they have called home for decades. It has sustained single moms and dads with limited resources and parents who depended on the Lambertville economy to feed their families. Of the $200,000 allocated to-date, 55% has gone toward temporary or permanent housing, 30% has gone toward replacement of damaged property, and 15% towards home repairs. Of the recipients, 90% were considered low-income households.
“Because we are a small, grassroots organization, we had the ability to be nimble even as our own headquarters was flooded and displaced,” said Jennifer Williford, executive director of Fisherman’s Mark. “The grant process has been swift and thorough thanks to our dedicated staff, donors, and Board. We pride ourselves in being good stewards of the donations that come in. Payments for housing go directly to landlords and receipts are required to document replacement items and repairs.”
In addition to funds already granted, Fisherman’s Mark has earmarked additional funds for Ida victims as clients begin to settle into more permanent residences. “We believe it will take those impacted at least another year to fully recover from the effects of the flooding,” said Williford. “There’s so much to be done.”
Fisherman’s Mark is still accepting donations for Hurricane Ida relief. To help, visit www.fishermansmark.org/donations