Success, recovery, development, Hurricane Sandy; those are the words that were swirling around the Manasquan River Golf Club banquet hall. There were many non-profit organization leaders that showed a lot of passion making Monmouth and Ocean County a better place. But they couldn’t have done it on their own; executives from Ocean First Bank put New Jersey on their back.

“I say this with confidence, there's not one other person or entity in this recovery that has done more to New Jersey than Ocean First Foundation.”

Sue Marticek said that with pride in front of hundreds of people. She’s the Executive Director for Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group. The Ocean First Foundation put in over $560,000 in Super Storm Sandy Efforts to help victims in Ocean and Monmouth County. To add another feather in their cap, executives added over 1.4 million dollars in housing initiative for Sandy Recovery.

Sue Marticek speaking at OceanFirst Bank 20th Anniversary Breakfast. (Photo Credit: Chris Scali)

“Super Storm Sandy by far was a natural disaster, the recovery of Sandy is a manmade disaster. It is a failure of government programing whether it be federal or our state.”

You may ask yourself; “what was the silver lining in this whole process?” Well as Marticek puts it, it was all of the non-profit executives in the banquet hall. They were the ultimate safety net for Sandy victims. Marticek is wearing many hats: next week, she will head back to Washington DC.

“My role there is to keep encouraging the idea of bringing the non-profits together with business, with the federal government.”

Marticek says that Ocean First Bank is a prime example of that. It looks like marrying a business and a non-profit is the way to go for ultimate success.

“You have the bank that’s a socially responsible business, that is making a profit. Some of that profit is going right back to the community and helping all of us.”

You can tell during Marticek’s speech that everyone was enlightened by her wisdom and confidence. She made a humorous remark about last week’s election.

“We had an election last week, that happened.”

Instantly you heard some laughter permeate around the room.

“Whether I am talking to Democrats or Republicans, in the House or in Congress. There is one thing that is consistent, it’s the uncertainty of what is happening next.”

If listeners were puzzled about Marticek’s remark, she cleared the haze out of the air. She quoted writer Bernard Beckett.

“The human spirit is the ability to face the uncertainty with curiosity and optimism. It is the belief that problems can be solved, differences resolved. It’s a type of confidence.”

No matter what political side you are on, it’s important to have confidence in your coworkers. Ocean First Executives showed leadership and stepped up, they wanted to make New Jersey better.

When Hurricane Sandy hit, many organizations didn’t know what to do, they were overwhelmed with one of the biggest catastrophes on the eastern seaboard.

“There wasn’t one politician, there wasn’t one government program. It was going to take us all.”

One person can’t solve a massive problem; it’s going to take an effort from many organizations around Monmouth and Ocean County. That’s why The Ocean First Foundation is giving generous grants to many non-profits. The more non-profits we have rebuilding New Jersey, the faster it’s going to grow. Growth is what New Jersey needs, especially after Sandy. Timothy Hart is the Division Director of Ocean County Parks & Recreation. His department is the key to Monmouth and Ocean County.

One on one interview with Timothy G. Hart. (Photo Credit Chris Scali) “Tourism is our primary industry, there really wasn’t that kind of a backup. People would go out and do fundraisers for one kind and another. But what Ocean First did is they said [“If you are doing a great job and you can meet thee standards, well give you support we’ll invest in you.”][/caption]The standards were monitoring board development, capacity building and the economic impact that the arts and recreation systems are making. Timothy Hart says the Jersey Shore has some big competition; examples included the Bahamas and the Hamptons. Hart wants his team to give a quality experience to tourists that’s different. To help spark that experience, Ocean First funds the transformative part.

“So what they say is if we give you a grant for $5,000 $10,000, whatever it is, we want you to meet these higher standards. So what they do is they multiply the impact of their giving. So they had given about $2.2 million dollars over the last twenty years. They probably have an impact more like $25 or $50 million dollars.”

The Ocean First Foundation helped these organizations get better, such as better fundraising, organization and funding extracurricular activities.

While tourism is a key part in Monmouth and Ocean County, education is also important. Executives put money into the Brick Children’s Theater. Ocean First impacts over 400 hundred students each year.

“They give more money each year for the arts than Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex County governments combined.”

Timothy Hart hopes this inspires other banks and intuitions to help fund the arts and recreation programs in New Jersey.

“It’s one thing to give money, but if you give money in a directed fashion, then you are actually changing the whole field and that’s what Ocean First has done.”

Ocean First executives are “honing in” as Hart calls it, its purposeful giving.

“They are saying if you do things in a more professional and effective way, they’re going to help us and that’s really significant.”

So we now understand that recreational activities, hurricane Sandy, and teamwork are extremely important to Ocean First, but we can’t forget about two key ingredients: local food banks and hospitals. Leaders from Ocean First understand that.

First, “The Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties” is the primary provider of food and other resources throughout Monmouth and Ocean. This food bank works with over 300 food pantries and soup kitchens. They reach over 131,00 people each year, volunteers provide enough food and other resources for about 12 million meals.

Carlos Rodriguez is the executive director of “The Food Bank” and he wants to make sure that food is always on the table for families in need; even during the holidays.

One on One Interview with Carlos M. Rodriguez. (Photo Credit Chris Scali)

“During Thanksgiving and holiday time, we want to make sure that the extra anxiety being able to provide for your family is alleviated.”

“The Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties” was one of first original grantees of the Ocean First Foundation.

“How it works is we provide most of the food that the pantries and local soup kitchens rely on to be able to care for local communities.” Rodriguez says they also do more. In areas that are not a strong local provider volunteers go in with a mobile food truck and feed hungry families.

“The Root of food insecurity in our community is pretty much lack of financial access. It’s not like we don’t have great markets in our community, its just families can’t stretch their dollars enough.”

For most of the families that “The Food Bank” is serving, only one family member is working. A part-time job isn’t enough to feed a family says Rodriguez. “Ocean First has always been there, not only to help with the financial support we need, but to identify potential collaborations so that w'ere working as efficiently and effectively as we possibly can."

Carolos Rodriguez and Ocean First Executives want families to have enough food to live a healthy and productive life.

Having a healthy life is what makes this world go round and Ocean First understands that. They gave grants to the “Children’s Specialized Hospital Foundation.” Philip Salerno is the President and Chief Development Officer for this hospital and he loved what Ocean First has over twenty years.

One on one Interview with Philip Salerno. (Photo Credit Chris Scali)

“They supported our autism program, they supported some renovations that we had. With our long-term care population their cleanliness is really critical. They helped us renovate a tub room so we can take our most disabled children and give them a bath.”

Salerno says he couldn’t imagine a better partner to have.  Ocean First is committed to their partnership with the “Children’s Specialized Hospital Foundation.”

“In good times and bad they always stood by us and helped us support our mission to serve children with disabilities.”

Katherine Durante is the Executive Director of Ocean First and Philip Salerno told me that he has tremendous respect for Durante. She has been there every step of the way for organizations around Monmouth and Ocean County. Salerno calls her a real leader in the philanthropic community.

“Kathy has done a great job, she understands our mission when we call. If I call and I say [“I would like to run an idea by you”] I can run that idea by her and get honest feedback so I can craft our proposal and request in a better way that makes sure that we’re both fulfilling the mission of our organization at the same time consistent with the Ocean First Organization."

Ocean First Bank has been around for over 113 years and they are growing around New Jersey. More Ocean First Bank expansions equal more grants they can give to local non-profits around Monmouth and Ocean County. John Walsh is the Director of Ocean First Bank and he sums it ups nicely.

One on Interview with John E. Walsh. (Photo Credit Chris Scali)

“Were proud to be a piece of rebuilding the Jersey Shore and we want to continue. Part of this celebration today is looking forward over the next 20 years, how we can continue to be good neighbors.”

In 2016 Ocean First Bank has expanded to Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Gloucester County.

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