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Heroes of the storm: Benchmark-New Jersey weathers ‘Sandy’

Category: Benchmark Human Services |  Region: New Jersey  |  Posted: November 8, 2012 by Courtney Hartman

“It appears that with diligence and perseverance, the NJ Team has weathered SANDY!”


These welcome words introduced New Jersey Director Diana Tomasetti’s storm update early Thursday afternoon, Nov. 1.


AWS/Benchmark Human Services operates five group residences in central New Jersey, which, along with Benchmark’s office, remain without power, with restoration expected in “seven to 14 days.”


Before Super Storm Sandy struck Monday night, the New Jersey staff had fully implemented its emergency preparedness plan, Tomasetti wrote.  Since the devastating storm, the staff has been  creative, dedicated and resolute in ensuring the health and safety of our consumers, Tomasetti reported, with many working incredible hours and exhibiting critical, creative problem solving skills.  Benchmark’s nurse has visited all homes to ensure the health and safety of consumers.   


Meanwhile, stories of incredible staff dedication and neighbors’ goodwill abound.  For example, Dannielle Cruz, House Manager/Recreation Coordinator, relentlessly sought and then traveled to Pennsylvania to secure generators for homes.  “We are truly indebted to Dannielle’s determination and to the help of our maintenance man, Ryan Keen, for their abiding dedication to our consumers and their wellbeing.”  Cruz and other staff continue to travel to Pennsylvania frequently for supplies and to fill gas cans. 


Elsewhere, a neighbor of Program Coordinator Stacy Reddish allowed Reddish to use their generator to puree several days of cooked food for a few group home residents with extensive medical needs so staff did not have to rely on slow-working battery-operated blenders to prepare food.  

Wednesday, Tomasetti reported that all existing and newly purchased group homes appear to be unharmed and did not sustain water damage, although there are fallen trees and debris.

“MANY THANKS to all for your prayers, well wishes and support through this event,” Tomasetti wrote. “ It has truly helped us weather the storm.  Thank goodness we filled our vans before this event and found working pumps in Pennsylvania if needed. “


Benchmark Human Services is a division of AWS, which is based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and offers residential, vocational, early intervention, home-based care and day services for children and adults with disabilities. Founded in 1960, AWS serves more than 8,500 people with disabilities in eight states. 


For more information, please contact: Barbara Wachtman, Director of Communications, 260.207.5680,