Column: Brick's Greenbriar senior community needs your help
By Jennifer Mauro
On the morning of Aug. 13, Judith McQuaide found herself huddled in her bed, her three cats drawn close.
“The water was so high, I couldn’t get the door open. It was up to the top of the mattress. I wondered what I was going to do.”
With the help of a neighbor, Judith and her cats were able to flee the fast-rising floodwaters, which were more than waist-deep.
Photo Gallery: Flooded Residents of Greenbriar I in Brick
Judith is just one person I met as I walked through the Greenbriar I adult community in Brick four days after nearly 8 inches of rain led to flash flooding and emergency evacuations.
When you first drive into Greenbriar, you wouldn’t know there’s anything amiss. Tree-lined streets lead to the community clubhouse, which is surrounded by well-kept and undamaged homes.
But a few blocks away from those unscathed neighbors, the lives of more than 100 residents are in a state of upheaval.
“I have no flood insurance,” Judith tells me above the roar of a fan as it whirls desperately to stave off the humidity trapped in the water-logged walls of her home. “You can go up and down this street and everyone will tell you the same thing.”
Indeed, as correspondent Tom Wiedmann and I walk among the homes in the 55-and-older community, I see a lifetime of memories lying on lawns. Clothes, furniture, dishes, pictures – and heirlooms that are not replaceable.
The residents of Greenbriar have no flood insurance – it wasn’t required, and you wouldn’t think it would be, living right off the Garden State Parkway. A state of emergency was declared in the area after the flood, but right now, the seniors are relying on the help of volunteers, church communities, the Greenbriar association and local business donations.
Some residents have help from friends and family or those who lived through Superstorm Sandy and know that the first order of business is to pull up floors, knock down walls and get rid of everything wet. Others have little to no help, still in too much shock to do anything but stare at their water-logged homes and weep.
Among those currently on scene to help is Seeds of Service, the nonprofit located on the grounds of Visitation Parish, Brick. Ruth Murphy and Lidia Kelly have been helping coordinate aid efforts and volunteers; the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Society has also helped by providing temporary housing for at least one family.
"Right now, it's a lot about moral support," Ruth tells me.
Ruth and Lidia have been good enough to take me around the community, introducing me to residents. I don’t want to be intrusive with my notepad and pen, and I’m moved by those who want to share their story.
After two hours in the 90-degree heat, Tom and I join the volunteers and residents for lunch in the clubhouse, listening as Ruth and Lidia chat with Denise Gratzel of First Baptist Church in Manasquan.
“It takes partners. We can’t do it alone,” Denise says. “The Baptists, the Catholics, the Methodists, the Lutherans … we all have to pull together. Oftentimes, the churches are the first one on the ground.”
“Do the people know what you’re doing?” chimes in Linda Russo, a woman in her 70s. About an hour ago, I had watched volunteers push water out her front door with brooms as Tom chatted with her husband, Sal.
“YOU know,” Denise says. “And God knows. All we want to do is serve the Lord, be the hands and feet. Nobody else needs to know.”
That was a thought I can’t get out of my head since walking into Greenbriar on Aug. 17. Hands and feet. What can I do? What can we all do?
I know some members of this community are living in hotels, or with friends and family. Others are sleeping in their homes, the air of which is thick with the smell of mold and a heat that takes your breath away.
They need our help. They need your hands and your hearts.
Can you rip up a floor or knock down a wall? They need you.
Can you move some clothes out of a closet? They need you.
Can you push a broom or mop? They need you.
Have some fans, dehumidifiers, plastic storage bins, contractor bags? They need you.
Are you a good listener? Can you hear their stories, give a hug? They need you.
I’m no she-hulk. I’m not wealthy. But I can swing a hammer. I can bring a fan. I can listen to a story.
They need me.
Jennifer Mauro is the managing editor for The Monitor. To help or volunteer, visit Greenbriar I at 1 Darley Circle, Brick NJ 08724 or call (732) 458-3700.
** Pick up a copy of the Aug. 23 issue of The Monitor or visit TrentonMonitor.com for a full report on Greenbriar I and to find out what our Catholic organizations and parishes are doing to help.[[In-content Ad]]