Firefighters and school personnel were honored for their contributions as Toms River dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
The district has been recognizing those who contributed their time and effort to the Sandy response. Building management and police officers were among those already honored, and Tuesday night the Board of Education recognized more of what the district calls "Hurricane Heroes."
"We felt it was worthwhile to try to sing the praises of all the people who contributed during this difficult time," said Superintendent of Schools Frank Roselli. "The people who came to work during this hurricane are really people who put others before themselves, before their families."
Roselli said that school crews, including maintenance, custodial and cafeteria staff, worked "tirelessly" to ensure that those displaced residents staying in shelters provided in district buildings had the necessary supplies.
Staff were honored for keeping generator power running, ensuring safety at bus stops when students prepared to return to school, and serving meals to residents whose homes were destroyed by the storm.
"You should be proud of every employee you have," said Toms River Councilman Brian Kubiel, who serves as the Law and Public Safety Committee Chairman.
School officials worked "side by side" with emergency responders in the wake of Sandy, Kubiel said. Schools became temporary staging areas for the battered Silverton and East Dover fire companies. In addition, about 3,000 residents were sheltered in Toms River schools following the storm.
A large contingent of Toms River fire company members appeared before the board to receive their recognition. Leaders spoke about the challenges Sandy posed and the selflessness of their members.
"This storm is unlike any other storm," said Toms River District 1 Fire Chief John H. Lightbody. "This is our Katrina."
"We did not expect what hit us," said Capt. Michael Cocco of the Silverton Volunteer Fire Company. His department, like the others throughout the township, saw a surge of calls for help in the days following Sandy. Members dealing with devastation at home nonetheless hit the flooded streets to help their neighbors.
"The fire service is a team unlike any other," said fire prevention Director James Mercready, who said he holds his relationship with the school district "dear."
"We get our strength through unity," he said.
School board President Ben Giovine thanked all those who helped with the storm recovery and noted it is something that will stay with residents for some time.
"We have our community living with this still day to day," he said.