KEANSBURG, NJ – Project PAUL, the local charitable organization that has long been a fixture in the Bayshore area, has fully reopened its doors more than three months after damage from Hurricane Sandy forced them closed.

The agency, probably best known as a thrift store and food pantry, actually provides a wide variety of services to needy families and individuals living in the Bayshore area of Monmouth County. Keansburg, where Project PAUL is located, was particularly hard hit by the hurricane.

In a typical year, Project PAUL distributes approximately $500,000 in increments ranging from approximately $100 to to clients in need of financial assistance for rent or utility payments. The funding for these services comes largely from government grants.

“We provide continued  support for  the Social Services infrastructure in Monmouth County by applying for government grants, interviewing clients, assessing needs,  and distributing funds if appropriate,” explained Sal Cortale, executive director.

In addition, Project PAUL operates the largest food pantry in Monmouth County, serving more than 1600 families weekly, and provides a variety of other services, including an educational support program for single parents attempting to earn a degree, English classes for non-native speakers, funding for prescriptions, and donations of clothes, diapers and household items to those clients who need them. Special programs throughout the year offer families who qualify everything from back to school book bags to holiday gifts.

A thrift store and furniture store both provide funding for the agency’s operations, and serve as a meeting place and source of inexpensive goods for local residents.

Perhaps the most valuable asset provided by Project PAUL is its integration into the community. It is well known in  Monmouth County among those who require its services, those who support its efforts and those who simply seek a thrift store bargain or good quality used furniture. It has established an infrastructure that allows it to uniquely and efficiently deliver services to its clients with limited paid staff and resources, one which it has built on and refined since its establishment in 1980. The agency’s prominent position in the community, network of volunteers and knowledge of its client base all make it uniquely effective.

When Sandy sent three feet of water swirling through the first floor of the main building on Carr Avenue, temporarily crippling the agency, the Bayshore lost a crucial resource at a time when its services were most acutely needed. Faced with losses exceeding $250,000 in lost inventory and damage to the building and equipment, but bolstered by an outpouring of support from donors and volunteers, Project PAUL’s staff started rebuilding.

Even during the closure, the agency was able to provide some limited services – Thanksgiving baskets and Christmas gifts were delivered on time, and clients were seen by appointment, even while the doors mostly remained closed.

Finally with the building once again resembling a thrift store and food pantry instead of a construction site, with new walls and floors, new fixtures in the store, and three new refrigerators lined up against freshly painted walls in the pantry, Project PAUL returned to normal operations on Feb. 4. The furniture store, also having undergone substantial repairs, opened several days later.

Looking forward, the people of Project PAUL are ready to fill the role they have filled for more than 30 years, meeting the needs of Bayshore’s most vulnerable residents, but with the understanding that for months and even years to come, those needs will be even greater.

“Many people have stepped up to help those suffering in the wake of Sandy, and those efforts have helped bring awareness to issues we have always known about and always dealt with effectively,” said Cortale. “And as time goes by and other crises develop elsewhere, we will be here continuing our efforts as we have for the past 30 years.”

 “Thirty years ago Project PAUL led the way in addressing the needs of the people of Keansburg, and 30 years later, Project PAUL is leading the way in showing there is life after Sandy,” said Sister Nancy Herron, director of client services.

“When you sow seeds of hope, you can stop the wind,” she added.

To find out more about Project PAUL, visit the agency’s web site, www.projpaul.org. Photographs of the damage from Sandy and the rebuilding efforts are featured on the agency’s Facebook page.