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Successful Run For Project Hope

After more than a year of assisting residents affected by Hurricane Sandy, Project Hope crisis counselors will soon hang up their logo-adorned blue fleece vests. Before they do, they will work with local agencies to ensure a smooth transition of services for those who continue to struggle.

“People had their lives turned upside down by Hurricane Sandy and getting back to living their life, instead of focusing solely on recovering it, takes time,” said Project Hope Director Ken Gnirke. “For some people, that time can be counted in months. For others, it can take much longer, so we are working to ensure there is continuity of concern as Project Hope phases down and our program ends.”

The phase-down will be completed by Feb. 28 and by then, the program is expected to ensure that local agencies understand the unique needs of those still suffering and that those who need help know where to turn.

“Our goal as we phase down is to leave survivors with practical coping strategies, resource materials and strengthened community linkages,” Gnirke said.

Officials estimate that the crisis counseling program reached 400,000 people state-wide. Though Project Hope offices are based in Hicksville, counselors provide one-to-one or group counseling in homes, schools, offices, community centers, places of worship and wherever else they were needed.

“We’re all about outreach, so much of what we do is out in the community,” said Project Hope Coordinator Stephanie Tipping. “We go wherever we can to ensure that the community knows we’re available. And for families that are struggling, it makes a huge difference.”

Though Hurricane Sandy was more than a year ago, Tipping says that people are still coming to Project Hope for support and help. Counselors help people work through emotional issues related to Sandy, and also point them toward helpful resources and services such as support groups. All Project Hope services are free and confidential.

Project Hope began with a FEMA grant that the county applied for two weeks after Hurricane Sandy struck. The funding allowed the county to fund counselors who helped storm victims with the emotional effects of the storm. Project Hope was overseen by the Nassau County Office of Mental Health and Chemical Dependency and was part of Central Nassau Guidance and Counseling Services. Though Project Hope will be wrapping up by the end of the month, Central Nassau Guidance and Counseling Services continues to receive grants from other organizations to provide for the emotional and physical needs of those still suffering from Hurricane Sandy.

“It has been a difficult but gratifying year,” said Gnirke who came out of retirement from the New York State Office of Mental Health to serve as program director for the crisis counseling program. “Very simply put, a lot of good work has been done to help a lot of good people.”