As a LSU grad and former resident on New Orleans, you can not imagine my mix of surprise, pride, and joy when I saw a Louisiana State Police SUV patrolling my Beach Haven West neighborhood.
I was just as proud of my hometown folks earlier in the day when Jason Hazelton from the Stafford Recreation Department pulled up out front with three other volunteers who were distributing drinks and snack packs as well flyers for the now open Relief Center.
The Stafford Township Storm Relief Center is located in the former town hall and Board of Education Office at 775 East Bay Ave.. The phone numbers are 609-597-5113 or 609-597-4213.
According to Hazelton, the center provides clothing, food, cleaning supplies, toiletries and other basic necessities. Donations of all these items are still needed and should be brought to the center, he added.
Mayor John Spodofora said he couldn’t be more proud of how township employees, police officers, fire and first aid squad member have acted through out the storm and the center is now the latest accomplishment.
“Every day I hear stories of how our folks have performed to the best of their abilities to assist the public,” he said. Local residents and other volunteers are helping to staff the center and provide other services, he added.
People can register to have crews come help them clean up or clean out their homes, said the mayor. “The Red Cross, other agencies and possibly even counseling services will be available,” added Spodofora.
Red Cross volunteers are also going throughout the storm ravaged areas providing hot food and water to residents and those down to clear their properties.
One team included Mickey Keyes from Houston, Texas and Mary Crawford who had driven the Red Cross vehicle all the way from Sioux Falls, South Dakota to help out. “This is what we do. When Americans need help we come from wherever we are to provide it,” she said.
Two of the Louisiana State Troopers, Matt Jones and Javier Leija of Troop F out of Monroe started driving their SUV at 3 a.m. last Monday morning as part of a 25 officer contingent from a state all too familiar with hurricanes.
“This is nothing compared to some of what we’ve seen in the past," said Jones who has responded to his share of hurricanes, including Katrina.
Leija, another Katrina veteran, said he understood why people in New Jersey may feel like this was “the end of the world,” since most had never before experienced the devastation he was seeing in Beach Haven West.
Despite their losses most people have all beeen courteous and appreciative for their presence, both troopers said.
Sgt. Jason Smith, Troop E, Alexandria, was manning the checkpoint out on Route 72. He said there were troopers from around Louisiana, including Shreveport and Lake Charles up as well.
“During Katrrina, a lot of us had to patrol most places in boats for days, so while this is bad for folks here, it could have been a lot worse,” he said.
Stafford’s Community Police Officer Chris Fritz said the Louisiana Troopers are working days while another 25 troopers from Florida are on duty at night.
“We are very fortunate to have these troopers with hurricane experience on hand to assist us” said Fritz. In addition, the New Jersey National Guard has assisted with checkpoints and other duties through out the storm, said Fritz
The troopers are here on strict orders and following procedures, he added. “They don’t know the area or the way we interact with our locals, so people should not think they are being rude or unconcerned. They are doing what they been trained to do and experienced in doing.”
Fritz also said on Wednesday there had been no reported incidents of burglary, looting or any other storm related crime. “There are a lot of things being spread on social media sites that just aren't true."