Acting Assistant Secretary George Sheldon Visit to Sandy Impacted Areas

Acting Assistant Secretary George Sheldon Visit to Sandy Impacted Areas

Following Super Storm Sandy one of the first visitors NJ and NY received was ACF Acting Assistant Secretary George Sheldon.   Since October 29 2012, Mr. Sheldon’s attention and commitment has not left Region II; he has been following children and families affected by Sandy through daily and weekly reports submitted by federal, state and local partners.   It is no surprise to find Mr. Sheldon coming back nearly 6 months later to meet once again with state and local partners and communities to learn about their progress and recovery.

The eventful visit included meetings with NJ and NYS Commissioners of Human Services, Children and Family Services, as well as with New York City Administration for Children’s Services.  However, the highlight was Mr. Sheldon’s visit to the Visiting Nurse Services (VNS) in Far Rockaway New York; one of the neighborhoods most devastated by Super Storm Sandy.  The VNS facility housed four Early Head Start classrooms, a GED program for community members and a Father's First Initiative.  Sandy’s force caused wide spread flooding and power outages all around Rockaway.  The facility suffered heavy flood damage; records and computers were ruined, and the most distressing is the loss of books, games, numbers and letters that distinguished this facility as the safe, caring place for children and parents.  Due to the extensive damage and the new advisory base flood elevation guidelines the VNS program will not return to the location. 

In a brilliant example of the resilience of human spirit, staff rallied to help community members meet basic needs.  Displaced families were contacted by VNS home visitors who travelled outside of the area to meet with them, while local churches and community centers provided a heated space in which to work and provide assistance.  On April 19, Assistant Secretary Sheldon visited the former Early Head Start site and met with staff at the Hammel Community Center, which opened its doors to VNS staff for program activities.  In a meeting with all twenty-one staff, Mr. Sheldon applauded their selfless work and all they do for the children and families in Far Rockaway. He spoke of ACF’s commitment to help rebuild the Early Head Start center, the VNS community and Rockaway so children and families can continue to receive quality services to help them learn and grow.