By DON STINE
The Ocean Grove Together campaign has reached $1 million in donations thanks to the generosity of the district’s residents and friends.
“We are so excited about this and people stepped up big time. Much of the community was involved and we had a wide range of people interested and participating,” said Joanne Cotton, who co-chairs the Together Campaign with her husband, Rev. David Cotton.
The campaign is a grassroots effort to raise money to repair damage caused to the boardwalk and Great Auditorium by Superstorm Sandy and to make needed repairs to the historic Thornley Chapel.
The total goal of the campaign is to raise $1.5 million to cover repairs costs and insurance deductibles.
“This amount is comparable to the percentage that other Jersey Shore towns need to raise in order to pay for their expected out-of-pocket costs. No town is getting a 100 percent reimbursement,” Cotton said.
Residents raised about $50,000 during a 36-hour period over the weekend, which was matched dollar-for-dollar by a private foundation.
Ushers at the Great Auditorium also asked for donations from the audience during a recent Beach Boys concert and Cotton said people were extremely generous.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently ruled that Ocean Grove is ineligible for federal disaster relief from Superstorm Sandy even though the historical community was granted similar funding in the past.
FEMA ruled that because Ocean Grove’s boardwalk is privately-owned by the nonprofit Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, it does not qualify for federal disaster assistance.
However, the Camp Meeting Association is considering appealing FEMA’s decision.
But people have been helping out on their own.
“We have had a lot of people really excited about reaching out and also contacting friends to help us and we always hope that FEMA and the state will help us. This is a town of faith and hope and it will be nice when the boardwalk is fully restored for people to enjoy it,” Cotton said.
A Together Campaign Ball will be held on Friday, Aug. 9 at Ocean Place Resort and Spa in Long Branch to raise more money. Information is available on the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association website and tickets are also for sale in town at the Starving Artist restaurant , the Ocean Vista Hotel and Sandpiper Inn, the Barbaric Bean, at Camp Meeting Association and at the Great Auditorium box office, where credit cards are accepted.
“We are hoping that our continued momentum will carry us through and it’s terrific,” Cotton said.
The middle part of Ocean Grove’s boardwalk is still gone and the roof at the Great Auditorium, built in 1894, was damaged on the front north and south sides during Sandy. Insurance is expected to cover the permanent roof repairs, with the policy having a $100,000 deductable. The current roof is 25 years old.
Ocean Grove’s historic Thornley Chapel, built in 1889, will be getting a $500,000 makeover, including building a handicapped ramp on the south side of the chapel, refurbishing the rest rooms, repainting, and installing a fire suppressant system.
Thornley Chapel is used daily all summer long and sometimes for special activities during the winter. The Victorian building is also a popular spot for weddings.