Cleanup that includes the removal of a lifeguard/supply shack that fell into an outdoor pool has begun around the exterior campus of St. Francis Community Center, Brant Beach, which sustained significant damage during Tropical Storm Isaias.

“Once the shack is removed, we will know more about the condition of the pool,” Wendy Saunders, the Community Center’s executive director, said as she talked about the Aug. 4 storm that battered several East Coast states with rain, flooding and tornadoes.

The Center also sustained damage to an air conditioning unit that was blown off its platform and a chain-link fence that was knocked over. Debris was also discovered in the outdoor pool.

With the exception of St. Francis Community Center, the Diocese of Trenton reported that overall, its parishes, schools and other organizations fared relatively well in the storm. Most damage was wind-related, causing downed trees, loss of roof shingles and power outages that lasted several days. 

Saunders noted that Tropical Storm Isaias marked the second storm to impact the Community Center in the past two months. The first storm, called a derecho, occurred June 3 and caused severe damage to the roof of the Counseling Services’ wing, and extensive damage to the Children’s Services’ rooms. She said that while the Counseling Services was able to function by providing virtual services, the childcare program had to be closed while the new roof was under construction.

Saunders said she is grateful that no one was injured in either storm. During the derecho, there was a limited number of staff members in the building because of COVID-19 restrictions, and “fortunately everyone was able to get out of the building safely.” Other blessings she noted was that the $750,000 in damages from the derecho will be covered by insurance, and by the time Tropical Storm Isaias occurred, the work on the roof had been completed so the inside of the building did not sustain additional damage.

Although the monetary amount in damages from Tropical Storm Isaias has yet to be determined, Saunders said the Community Center is taking a financial hit since several programs had to be discontinued until repairs are completed. Compounding the storm damage, she said, were the COVID-19 restrictions that also affected income.

One example of the financial impact, she said, was the childcare program, which closed in March due to COVID-19 and was scheduled to reopen June 15. But after the June 3 derecho and damages to the building, the program has since been closed. Another example she noted was the tropical storm’s interrupting the operation of the Center’s aquatics program.

“We are uncertain when we will be able to resume classes,” she said.

Saunders praised the staff members resilience and dedication of St. Francis Community Center, which was built in 1972 by adjacent St. Francis of Assisi Parish but now operates as a separate entity.

“They have worked hard through COVID-19, setting up home offices in order to provide as many services virtually during the pandemic,” she said.

Also there were many staff members who continued to worked onsite such as in the food pantry, which was opened one day a week and served about 100 families in three hours through a drive-through system. When the storms struck, the staff had to adjust their routines by sharing office space, staggering their schedules and working from home when possible.

“COVID-19 and the storm damages have changed the way we are doing things, but we will continue to provide the best possible services to our community,” Saunders said.