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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bringing hope to L.B.
Project Hope helps residents cope post-Sandy
By Alexandra Spychalsky
Courtesy Robert Shanley
Project Hope volunteers are on hand to help at a children’s art forum at Gentle Brew Cafe

Sporting blue vests and armed with stacks of flyers, Project Hope counselors can be seen everywhere in Long Beach these days.

“Ultimately, we’re just here to listen to you,” said Kristen Snipp, Project Hope Coordinator. “There is a benefit to sharing your story and feeling supported.”

Project Hope is a free, confidential crisis counseling service offered to victims of Hurricane Sandy. Project Hope helps people cope with the aftermath of a storm through counseling services. Some counselors are medical professionals, but they are not meant to diagnose. Rather, they listen to people’s stories, give them the tools they need to manage the difficulties in their lives and then point them towards valuable resources that may help them in their situation.

“We’re not diagnosing them,” said Snipp. “We’re really sitting there and being present with them and allowing them to share what happened to them.”

The New York State Office of Mental Health created Project Hope last October. Immediately after the storm, many people were focused on their physical health — finding safe shelter and cleaning out the wreckage in their homes was the first priority.

In the confusion and the chaos, many didn’t realize the emotional toll a disaster like this can have. The state mental health office felt that people in disaster areas needed emotional assistance as well. They were able to receive funding for the program from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Project Hope offers services like individual and group crisis counseling, informational support and public education. And they are flexible in the way they can deliver these services. They can come to your home for an individual counseling session, or to your business for a group seminar. They listen to people’s experiences, and then teach the stress management and coping skills that they needs. They also refer people to other programs they feel will help them with their recovery, for everything from housing to mental health. The biggest aspect Project Hope stresses is that their help is always confidential.

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Donna54

As a Project Hope team member, I cannot share enough just how much I have learned about people, including myself, since the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. How from such a historic disaster, came forth, the historic outpouring of the human spirit. Spirit that comes from deep within the hearts of so many incredible people who take it upon themselves to volunteer their time in helping to rebuild the homes and lives of others; homes and lives that were left devastated beyond words. How even now, almost 4 months later, I still find myself in moments where it all still feels so strangely surreal to me. Moments, when I am left feeling so completely humbled in seeing just how life can literally change over night as a result of a natural (or unnatural) disaster. How one devastating event can bring us to our knees, but yet, despite it all, how the human heart and spirit within us, can push us to rise above the pain and the rumble, so we can work towards the recovery and the rebuilding of a new life. Yes, living through the aftermath of Sandy will now be a part of all our lives, as well as a part of history. But more importantly, so will be the "bruised but not broken" sentiment that is being echoed throughout our communities. For it has been through the aftermath of Sandy, that we have witnessed the endless gifts of unselfish giving; gifts that have become a beautiful testimony of humanity, a testament that I know has softened my heart beyond words. That, I, for one, now truly understand what it really means to give ... and how "in giving, we also receive". So here's to all those who help in bringing HOPE to Long Beach ... our new, "Strong Beach". May she come back as resilient as all the incredible spirits of those who are helping to rebuild her and the lives of one another! ~ Donna Pisacano Brown

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