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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Organization shifts focus to hurricane victims
Jaime Whelan Foundation raises money to help local families recover
By Alexandra Spychalsky
Photo courtesy Joe Whelan
Jaime Whelan

For the Whelan family, assisting the Long Beach community is second nature.

“A lot of families are in tough spots, and we just want to help them out as much as we can,” said Joe Whelan, co-chair of the Jaime Whelan Foundation, and brother to its namesake, Jaime.

The foundation’s mission has always been to help Long Beach families; they provide high school scholarships to local girls. But since the storm, they have decided to give 100 percent of the donations they receive to Long Beach and Island Park families affected by Hurricane Sandy. In the weeks since the hurricane hit, they have already raised $83,000, far exceeding their expectations.

“It’s been humbling and amazing,” said Whelan.

The foundation was established in memory of Jaime Whelan, an Island Park native who died in 2007 at age 30. For five years, the foundation has given scholarships to girls going from Long Beach Catholic Regional School to Sacred Heart Academy, Whelan’s alma maters.

However, when Hurricane Sandy hit their hometown, the Whelan family wanted to do something else to help their community. They announced that all donations the foundation received for 90 days following the storm would be distributed to local families in need. They also decided to match up to $5,000 of donations received.

“We figured we’d end up around $10,000,” said Whelan. “We’d raise $5,000 and match $5,000.”

But in just about a month’s time, total donations have reached $83,000, and that number is still growing. Whelan said he has been overwhelmed by the response, much of which has come from outside of the area.

“The community of Long Beach has touched so many people, and they feel obligated to give back,” said Whelan.

Donations have come from all across the country, which Whelan attributes to the grassroots nature of their organization. He thinks people are hesitant to donate to large organizations because they don’t know where their money is going.

“Each of those organizations, as great as they are, they have salaried employees. We’re completely volunteer,” he said.

They have also decided to use local business to provide goods and services to the families they will assist.

“We want to keep the local businesses afloat as much as we can,” said Whelan.

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