Local Agencies Coordinate Hurricane Ida Relief Effort

The floodwaters caused by Hurricane Ida resulted in extensive property damage and disrupted the lives of many residents, including several of the most vulnerable members of our community. About 50% of structures were impacted to some degree. The most severe damage resulted in families losing their homes entirely.

Residents, nonprofits, and the City of Lambertville rallied quickly in the immediate aftermath of the storm to provide support and services to affected residents. These coordinated efforts continue, and are now expanding with a shared application residents can use to apply for funds from Fisherman’s Mark and Lotsa Helping Hands of Lambertville.

Lotsa Helping Hands of Lambertville coordinated volunteers who did everything from mucking out basements to setting up a thrift store and food pantry at Lambertville Public School. Fisherman’s Mark, a nonprofit social services agency in Lambertville which was itself displaced, quickly moved to a new location where residents could once again access trusted services. The City of Lambertville provided housing and other support, and coordinated with federal, county, and state agencies to bring as many resources to Lambertville as possible.

Since the hurricane on September 1st, the City of Lambertville has been supporting families, including nearly 30 people who are in need of temporary housing, spending more than $20,000 from the City’s Emergency Fund. The City is also providing ongoing case management to nearly 40 families, many of which have found permanent housing. Other agencies are offering similar help. Despite this, “Some people are still seeking to resolve their housing problem,” said Ricardo Zapata, Community Engagement Manager for Fisherman’s Mark. “No housing plus no transportation means they are limited to where they can find work. Many are without winter clothes. They are totally reliant on friends and family, which makes for a very stressful situation for these families,” Zapata said.

Individuals who wanted to help their community in the aftermath of the September 1st hurricane had many options. In addition to opportunities to donate to various local nonprofits already set up to help those in need, there were also dozens of restaurant fundraisers and benefit concerts.

Dina Fanelli is the Administrator and Founder of the Lambertville Chapter of Lotsa Helping Hands, which brings together volunteers and those that need a hand during times of crisis. The Greater Lambertville Area Chamber of Commerce presented a two-day musical benefit, which raised over $100,000.  The proceeds will be distributed by Lotsa Helping Hands. “The goal is to help those with the greatest need,” Fanelli said. “Individuals, families, and businesses directly impacted by Hurricane Ida will benefit. One hundred percent of the net proceeds from the fundraiser will be distributed,” Fanelli said.

Coordination of services and donations has been ongoing, and now enters a new phase. Fisherman’s Mark and Lotsa Helping Hands have created an ad-hoc committee tasked with coordinating the disbursement of the funds raised by both organizations for Hurricane Ida Relief. “We want our donors to be confident in knowing that we are good stewards of their donations,” said Jennifer Williford, Executive Director of Fisherman’s Mark, “and in doing so, we need to coordinate with other organizations with the same mission.”

The two organizations will be working cooperatively as they seek to distribute these funds. A universal application will be used, and permission for applicants to allow for cross-checking will be included. “We felt that we could be more effective by streamlining the process and working across organizations,” Fanelli said. “A concerted effort will bring funds to those who need it much more quickly and more effectively.”

Fisherman’s Mark applications are being distributed at the food pantry location at 262 North Main Street, and their administrative offices at 233 North Main Street, Suite 5 or can be requested via email at [email protected] Lotsa Helping Hands applications for both businesses and individuals can be requested by emailing Dina Fanelli at [email protected].

“The leadership of the City of Lambertville wants to ensure that our residents have a safe place to live and are able to recover from Ida as quickly as possible,” said Julia Taylor, Council President for the City of Lambertville who has been working closely with volunteers and agencies. “We look forward to a continued coordinated effort with other organizations, and assisting those without secure housing or who have other critical needs,” she said.

“In less than a month, one of our clients is due to have her third child. She is without a permanent place to live,” said Williford. “It is our hope that in urgent situations like this, rental assistance can be established and landlords paid as quickly as possible.”

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