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South Jersey's Overwhelming Compassion for the Communities of the Gulf Coast

Location: Washington, DC

October 7, 2005

The pictures originating from the Gulf Coast region have been deeply disturbing. Entire communities, once home to thousands of families, were leveled. High-rise buildings that once stood prominently were now shells of their previous existence. Lives were needlessly lost.

As the country witnessed, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita wreaked havoc upon coastal communities in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. The greatest natural disaster in the nation's history has captivated our attention for the past month. It has also stirred our deepest emotions and, in response, we have rallied with our most profound compassion.

Communities across Southern New Jersey have personified the essence of the American spirit: generous, optimistic, and united. From the countless water, clothing, and donation drives organized by local governments, churches, schools and families, to the sending of professional crews, emergency first responders and equipment to the region, I have been incredibly proud to call the 2nd District my home. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight but a few of the contributions originating from our communities.

Answering the call to duty, personnel from Air Station Atlantic City were immediately dispatched to the disaster region to provide rescue and recovery support to the U.S. Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). The heroic acts of our service men and women have assisted the Coast Guard in rescuing more than 35,000 people via airlifts and boat landings. Upon their return, I visited with them to extend the community's gratitude for their selfless efforts more than 1,000 miles away from home. As Chair of the House Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, I have been unbelievably impressed with the outstanding response of the U.S. Coast Guard. They have truly been the shining light during a dark period in our nation's history.

Equally impressive has been the ingenuity of communities across Southern New Jersey. The Tri-County Community Action Partnership - encompassing Cumberland, Salem, and Gloucester counties - and the township of Franklin each established a symbolic "adoption" with a devastated community along the Gulf Coast. In the purest gestures of compassion, the Partnership and the Franklin Township formulated an "adopt-a-town" strategy - benefiting the towns of Hattiesburg, MS and Lumberton, MS, respectively - to provide direct relief and assistance. The programs have not only contributed critical supplies and cash donations, but have also formed a life-long connection between previously distant communities.

The people of South New Jersey have unquestionably demonstrated the depths of their compassion, rising to the challenge during this difficult time. Through hundreds of donations, collection drives, Tele-a-thons, and caravans of supplies, New Jersey's presence and generosity was felt by countless lives in the region. From temporary waivers to casino workers displaced by the storms seeking work in Atlantic City, to area families offering bus fare and housing to evacuees, there was no shortage of human kindness from our communities. I never doubted there would be.

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