|Union Beach's Deputy OEM Coordinator Don Cafro & OEM Coordinator Mike Harriot enjoy the festivities.
The late Mr. Fred Rogers once said, “Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me.” Mr. Rogers would have been proud of the over 275 hometown heroes honored on Dec. 26 by the Union Beach Education Association.
The Union Beach E.A. hosted a dinner “Honoring our Heroes” at St. Joseph’s School to acknowledge its mayor, town council, police and fire departments, emergency medical services, and educators for all of their hard work and dedication in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
Ron Villano, UniServ Field Representative, explained that immediately after Sandy struck, the UBEA sprang into action, helping the Union Beach School District create substitute classrooms in nearby towns after the district’s only K-8 school was shut down. “The UBEA met with all of the community leaders then and continue to do so today,” he added. He also said association members were instrumental in helping local families and students whose homes were swamped.
Union Beach Education Association President Tina Brown described, “We wanted to have this event to say thank you for everyone’s hard work. Those 13 days (when school was cancelled) we teachers were right alongside those in the community, helping families who really needed it.”
School Nurse Eileen Trunk led a team of Shrewsbury Education Association members helping out at the event to model the behavior they wish to teach their students. She said that seven of her own colleagues are currently unable to reside in their primary homes. "We believe in educating the whole child, academically, as well as building character.”
|First year Culinary Ed. Center students Nicole Arango & Mary Dwulet helped cook and serve the food.
nty Vocational EA Vice-President Maryanne Rodriguez said that Jaime Soto, NJEA Member and Structured Learning Coordinator at The Culinary Education Center, Asbury Park, was instrumental in coordinating the gastronomic logistics for the food that was cooked and served by Culinary Education Center students.
“It took us about a month to prepare. We are serving 160 pounds of turkey, 140 pounds of ham, 250 pounds of potatoes, 150 pounds of stuffing, and 100 pounds of vegetables,” Soto said. “Funding was provided by PRIDE money from Union Beach EA and NJEA headquarters.”
Food was not the only treat available at the dinner. Mary Dwulet, First Year Pastry Student at the Culinary Ed. Center solicited donations and collected over 1000 toys for kids in need.
Dwulet said that all of the donations made her want to cry because it was so unbelievable to see everyone come together.
Rodriguez added that musical performances by the Communications High School students and Biotechnology High School Teacher William Hereck rounded out the evening.
Monsignor Sam Sirianni, Saint Robert Bellarmine Church, Freehold, led a pre-meal grace including, “We give thanks to the first responders who when everyone else rushed away from the danger, they ran into it.”
When asked what the event meant to him, Mike Harriot, Union Beach Emergency Management Coordinator remarked, “I’d like to thank the NJEA for honoring all the responders. When I am asked what I would differently in the storm if I could, I say ‘absolutely nothing’. We have 6200 residents and nobody was dead, nobody was injured, and nobody was missing. It was a phenomenal job for all the responders.”
Harriot’s wife, Kathleen, a retired NJEA member added, “They are not usually recognized for stuff like this, and they really appreciate it.”
According to The New York Times, dozens of waterfront streets in this middle-income community were flooded. Of its 2,200 homes, many built in the 1950s, about half had flood insurance. Approximately 268 buildings were destroyed or sustained major damage in a 1 square kilometer area.
Brown added that Union Beach students would be back at their own schools no earlier than March.