Hurricane Sandy is still very hanging around along the battered bayfront streets of Keansburg.
Heaps of debris pulled from sodden houses can still be found on some sidewalks, after the tidal surge severely flooded some parts of town. Some people are still living without hot water. Cars were wrecked. Homes need to be gutted.
And as the calendar flips to the new year, many fear the problems facing storm-battered Bayshore communities will fade from urgency.
Inspired by the recent example of Colts Neck linking with Union Beach, and talk of Marlboro helping Keyport, Holmdel Township leaders say they would like to "partner" with Keansburg to help it through the post-Sandy crisis and beyond, to help rebuild lives and homes.
"We’re in this to help our neighbors," said James Sfayer, a retired Lt. Col. of the Marine Corps, who lives in Colts Neck, and who presented an organization plan Monday night at Holmdel's Town Hall for a handful of town leaders. In attendance were two councilmen from Keansburg's governing body: Arthur Boden and Thomas Foley. Foley is also a Holmdel police officer. "It's not about people -- it's about towns," said Sfayer.
So far the Colts Neck-Union Beach partnership has been very successful, Sfayer said. At the initial meeting between the towns, 70 people showed up, representing everything from scouts, to sports leagues, to the PTOs. One Colts Neck attorney assigned one of his firm's employees to work, pro-bono, on a full-time task creating databases and applying for grant money. "There's a lot of money floating around," said Sfayer.
He said the verb to use to describe the alliance is "partnering" -- not "adopting" -- because the relationship will be mutually beneficial.
"You never know when it may be Keansburg helping out Holmdel," he said. "You are creating a partnership that is going to last."
Township Committeeman-elect Tom Critelli has volunteered to lead "Operation Provide Comfort" for Holmdel. Critelli, the president of a development company, has visited Keansburg several times since Sandy and is optimistic Holmdel can help Keansburg recover in ways that go past a 5K race or bake sale. "The residents of this town can be very, very generous," he said.
Mayor Patrick Impreveduto believes the people of Holmdel can put their talents to use. "We can really make a real impact there," he said.
"Operation Provide Comfort" will begin in January once the Keansburg Council members have compiled an assessment of needs. To kick-off their partnership, Holmdel will meet with Keansburg Borough representatives, in their town.
Holmdel's established community organizations, such as its parent-teacher groups, sports, senior and police organizations will have the opportunity to be matched up with similar organizations in Keansburg.
HYAA President Gerald DiMaso said he thought the youth leagues would be interested in participating in things like sports equipment drives.
Holmdel Schools Superintendent Barbara Duncan and School Board President Barbara Garrity were also present to support the project through the school community.
At a board meeting Wednesday night, Duncan said that she has spoken with building principals about steering fundraisers in 2013 towards the township's new mission to help Keansburg. "I think it is a worthwhile cause, and I believe Holmdel has a big heart, and that we can reach out and we can make a difference," said Duncan.