Sandy’s impact sends NJSOCF offices to new location

New Office
Superstorm Sandy had an impact that hit New Jersey like a sledgehammer and our organization was not immune. The hurricane caused such extensive damage at NJSOCF quarters on Preakness Avenue in Totowa that Executive Director Debra Sikkema was forced to make a move to new offices at 137 Union Boulevard, Totowa. (All other contact information for NJSOCF remains the same.)  “The day after Sandy hit, I knew my home on Pelican Island, near Seaside Heights, had four feet of bay water in the first floor,” she said. “I had to go to the office to find my flood insurance policy. After maneuvering through the treestrewn streets and downed power lines, I pulled up to our building  to find yellow tape across the front entrance.  Steve, the maintenance man, was keeping everyone out because the roof was unstable and the situation dangerous. Sandy had blown off part of the roof and rain flooded one side of the building four floors down. Water was still pouring through the damaged roof and flooding our office and the lobby. ”Despite the conditions Ms. Sikkema and NJSOCF administrative assistant Bernice DeMeritt managed to get in and salvage a few items and records they thought the most important.  “We returned the next day to evaluate the situation and begin cleanup,” she said. Everything and anything that was on the office floor was destroyed by water. Water pouring down the walls destroyed just about everything else. NJSOCF had been in that office space for 22 years and had decades of records along with furniture and electronics. Within days, mold started to sprout on the carpets, walls and furniture.  “From then on for the next several weeks, staff and volunteers worked to clean out the damaged space. We lost furniture, supplies, donated items for event prizes, computer and telephone equipment,” Ms. Sikkema said. “During this traumatic time we managed to set up a make-shift office using cell phones and a borrowed laptop to continue to authorize prescriptions and carry on services for our adult program.  ”After being faced with the near total damage and impossible cleanup, Ms. Sikkema contacted a remediation company. “They first tested the walls and some of them measured 99% moisture,” she said. “They told us that we should not be working there.We then made the decision to find new office space.  ”NJSOCF was fortunate to quickly find suitable new quarters and began the task of furnishing, painting and moving as well as shredding old documents. All of the furniture and equipment in the old office was a total loss.  “Our ordeal began on October 29, 2012 and it wasn’t until February 2013 that we could conduct business in a normal fashion in our new office space,” Ms. Sikkema said. “But there is always a silver lining – our new space is smaller, more economical and in a better location. Everything is modern and new and we are now happily settled in.  ”The insurance claim to cover losses in the old office is still pending but a favorable settlement is anticipated. Ms. Sikkema’s Pelican Island home is undergoing reconstruction which she hopes will be complete by the end of the summer.