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Letter: Human services staff excelled

Published 11:14 am, Friday, November 16, 2012
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The Westport Department of Human Services staff did outstanding during Hurricane Sandy. Under the leadership of director Barbara Butler, they confronted the enormity of the storm's devastation with determination and grit, ignoring their own problems to attend to the needs of town residents.

DHS staff established, oversaw and staffed two emergency shelters during the hurricane, staying overnight to attend to the health and safety needs of shelter residents, making certain that food, medical attention and a sympathetic ear were always available.

Terry Giegengack, department assistant director, was responsible for the set-up and operation of the Long Lots School shelter, which was open Sunday to Wednesday and at its highest occupancy housed 81 Westport residents. In addition, the work of Margaret Pinheiro, Sue Lebrija, Pam Bass, Sarah Cocker and Patty Haberstroh, along with youth and senior center staff members Kevin Godburn, Elaine Daignault, Holly Betts, Janet Suchsland, Ben Palmer, Tara Lansdale, Chris Lemone and the help of CERT volunteers and others, rose to unprecedented levels of service to the town and its residents.

A second shelter at the Center for Senior Activities was overseen by its director, Sue Pfister. It operated Monday through Thursday and provided food and respite during the crisis for fire, police, EMS, and piublic-works crews. Beginning Wednesday after the storm, the senior center also provided emergency shelter for some of our frail elderly residents and those who might have special needs requiring medical assistance. This center stayed open until Sunday after the storm.

The last two weeks have been incredibly difficult for our residents, and we send our wishes for healing and normalcy to them and their families. But we should all remember and recognize those public servants who went above and beyond their jobs, working around the clock, to help us in this trying time. Westporters are indeed fortunate to have people of this caliber, dedication and commitment working in our town.

Lynn Goldberg, chairman

Westport Human Services Commission