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Mets take part in Hurricane Sandy relief efforts

On anniversary of storm, COO Wilpon and club delegates refurbish Boys & Girls Club

GARFIELD, N.J. -- It's an anniversary that hits close to home.

On Tuesday, one year after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc along the East Coast, the Mets decided to drop in and lend another hand in the rebuilding effort. The Mets, in conjunction with Jersey Cares, sent a team of delegates to help refurbish the Garfield Boys & Girls Club.

That group, led by chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, painted the interior and exterior walls of the Boys & Girls Club, and they spent some time landscaping and putting together new furniture. It's all for the betterment of the community, said Wilpon, and it's a chance to help out those less fortunate.

"Painting's not as easy as it looks," said Wilpon. "You think you've covered it, and then you go back and it's like, 'Wow, look at all the spots you've missed.' It's a little bit more of an art form than just slopping paint on the wall, but we're doing a pretty good job of slopping the paint."

Garfield, a city named after James A. Garfield, the 20th President of the United States, lost power for about a week after Sandy hit, and when it was restored, the Boys & Girls Club became a temporary rallying point for families that needed a hot meal or a place to charge their cell phones.

The Boys & Girls Club of Garfield plays host to about 200 kids a day, and it has programs for children from the ages of 5-18. The facility endured wind and rain damage during the storm, but the Mets and Jersey Cares arrived Tuesday to give it a little paint and a lot of love.

"A year ago, everyone was in such trauma and such devastation here and to where we went last year in Brooklyn. Out in Coney Island, especially, as well as Staten Island and Breezy Point etc.," said Wilpon. "The bunch of visits we did last year were really great to do, and to do it a year later and help out, to have the kids come in later and see all this stuff freshened up will be really neat."

Shane Sudol, director of development for the Garfield Boys & Girls Club, said Tuesday that the children are very observant and will surely be grateful for the refurbishment. But more importantly, he said, it's good for people to pitch in and work together for the betterment of the community.

"That's the most important thing," he said. "Sometimes people get lost because they don't have a check to write. It gets lost that if you can spend a few hours and paint a little bit, it goes a long way. It's not about the money all the time. It's about connecting with the community. And it's a good bonding experience. It gets them out of the office, out of their routine and lets them do something good."

Jersey Cares, a Newark-based service organization, has partnered with the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund to come up with 80 projects and 5,000 volunteers to work around the anniversary of the storm. There is still much renovation to be done, and Kaitlyn Brady, a corporate service manager with Jersey Cares, said that there is an amazing body of citizens waiting to carry it out.

"I don't necessarily think people have forgotten about it, but it's surprising to people how much there is still to do," Brady said of the storm's one-year anniversary. "It's great to see such a great turnout between these two days, and it's a great reminder to people. There are still homes to be gutted and there are still people that aren't living in their homes. Over the weekend, I was at a home where they had just moved back in two weeks ago. It's really amazing how much work there is still to do."

The Mets' employees painted and landscaped and spent a few hours putting a shine on the Boys & Girls Club, and Wilpon spent a few moments with the media discussing his baseball team.

Wilpon made sure to note that teams aren't supposed to make any headlines and distract from the ongoing World Series, but he admitted that the Mets could be in for a winter of change.

"I would say a little bit of transition, because we have definite deficiencies that we've got to fill this offseason. And the ability to do it," said Wilpon. "There's probably a glut of first basemen. ... You could count five if you wanted to, and something's got to happen there with the logjam. There's been some interest already, but where that interest goes and what that brings back, that you've got to let play out a little bit. It probably won't be until the GM Meetings or maybe even the Winter Meetings."

Wilpon said that the Mets are confident with David Wright at third base and in a trio of their starting pitchers -- Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler. Wilpon also addressed Matt Harvey, his team's injured ace, and said that the team has gotten good returns on the right-hander's elbow surgery.

Wilpon said he was confident that Harvey will stay abreast of the recommended rehab schedule, and when cautioned by one reporter that recovery time for elbow surgery can sometimes take 15 months, he sounded a hopeful note. The Mets, he said, are willing to wait however long it takes.

"I think 80 percent of Matt Harvey is pretty good. We'll take it," said Wilpon of his staff's recovering workhorse. "I hope he's back 100 percent, but I have full confidence he's going to be back and be as good as ever. How quickly that happens, someone of a higher authority can tell you that."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for
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