TRENTON, N.J. — The White House honored five New Jersey residents and organizations on Wednesday, April 24th, as Superstorm Sandy “Champions of Change” for their involvement in response and recovery efforts following Superstorm Sandy.
In all, the program recognized 17 hidden heroes from across the nation for their efforts in implementing innovative, collaborative solutions to meet the unique needs of communities and neighborhoods as they worked to rebuild after the devastating effects of this disaster.
“Time and again, we have seen the courage and heroism of first responders, organizations, and ordinary people in providing relief, recovery, and care, and these Hurricane Sandy champions of change are no exception,” said Paulette Aniskoff, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement. From providing up-to-the-minute news, to assisting with long-term recovery to showing compassion to neighbors to donating vital supplies, these ordinary heroes are an inspiration to us all.”
The five honorees from New Jersey represented a variety of organizations that included the media, educational scholarships, fund-raising apparel, athletic events and financial assistance.
“In every disaster there are always individuals who come forward to do extraordinary things,” said Gracia Szczech, Federal Coordinating Officer of the disaster operation in New Jersey. “We are extremely proud of these outstanding New Jerseyans and salute them for their heroic efforts to assist the residents affected by this disaster.”
The New Jersey Champions of Change:
Justin Auciello, Jersey Shore Hurricane News
Justin Auciello is an urban planner and digital journalist. Understanding the power of social media during a crisis, he created Jersey Shore Hurricane News, a Facebook- and Twitter-based news platform, in advance of Hurricane Irene in 2011. A native of South Seaside Park, New Jersey, Justin knew that residents needed an outlet to both receive and contribute crucial information before, during, and after a storm. Though Hurricane Irene did not inflict widespread damage in the state, Superstorm Sandy caused catastrophic damage, especially in New Jersey's shore areas. The outlet was widely utilized by New Jersey residents for accurate news reports, crowdsourced information about food, water, gas, and shelter, and deliveries of supplies and assistance to people in need. Most importantly, the platform was used by the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management to communicate with people requesting rescue from the storm surge, as 911 was overloaded.
Wendy Kubu Callahan, The Vic Kubu Long Blue Line Scholarship and Disaster Relief Fund (The VIC Fund)
The VIC Fund (Victory in Crisis) came to life from the dream of one man with a passion for helping kids. It started in 2002 as the Long Blue Line Scholarship Fund to help kids go to college. The VIC Fund emerged with the same mission in response to the desperate need of our communities as a result of Superstorm Sandy. They are dedicated to the creed of Effort, Teamwork, and Commitment to kids.
Warren “Drew” Chabot, Restore the Shore
Toms River, NJ
During Superstorm Sandy, Drew Chabot and his parents were displaced due to their houses being flooded. With his friend Scott Zabelski, the owner of a screen printing business called Blue Wave Printing, Drew went to work printing and selling “Restore the Shore” sweatshirts and t-shirts. $10 from every sweatshirt and $5 from every t-shirt went back to the affected people in the community. To date, they have raised and distributed over $500,000 to disaster relief nonprofits in their community. Through his job with Home Depot, Drew worked to provide donated supplies and labor to help get people back into their homes.
Coach Kyle Flood, Rutgers University
New Brunswick, NJ
Kyle Flood was named the 29th head coach at the Birthplace of College Football on January 31, 2012. Flood made an immediate impact on the Rutgers program as he led the school to its first BIG EAST Championship in 2012. Flood ended the season being named the BIG EAST Coach of the Year. Flood’s nine regular season victories were the most by any first-year coach in Rutgers history as eight players garnered All-BIG EAST honors. Khaseem Greene became the second player in league history to be named BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year for two consecutive seasons. The Rutgers football team helped after Superstorm Sandy in several ways, including selecting 22 kids affected by Superstorm Sandy to play a flag football game in the final five minutes of a football game, asking game attendees to make a $5 donation at a game, and working to remind everyone that there is still a lot to do before the state fully recovers from Superstorm Sandy.
Wayne Meyer, New Jersey Community Capital
New Brunswick, NJ
Once power returned to the offices at New Jersey Community Capital (NJCC), Wayne Meyer and the rest of his team immediately began working on plans to help victims of SuperStorm Sandy restore their lives, in particular, their livelihoods. Thanks to the generosity and assistance of several NJCC funders, Mr. Meyer and his team managed to launch the REBUILD New Jersey Fund within weeks of the devastating storm. By amassing capital, grant support and other financing, NJCC was able to offer small businesses impacted by the storm quick access to flexible, low-cost loans for building repairs, equipment and inventory purchases, rent or mortgage payments, salary expenses, and utility costs. In his current role as President of NJCC, Mr. Meyer continues to exemplify his more than 20-year passion for community development, bringing thoughtful leadership and innovation to scalable and nationally replicable solutions for local neighborhood and community challenges.
The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature groups of Americans – individuals, businesses and organizations – who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.
To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program and nominate a Champion,
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