IRVINGTON, NJ — After Tropical Storm Ida ravaged the township of Irvington, flooding streets and buildings, causing massive property damage throughout the town, the township spent weeks recovering from the deadly storm.
While many residents have endured the pain of losing valued items in the storm, one resident has endured a pain like no other. Losing a loved one is never easy, especially when tragedy strikes in the form of a natural disaster. But losing two loved ones to the storm has left Irvington resident Joann Mcgee bereft.
Joann Mcgee lost both her husband and daughter, James Mcgee, 66, and Shenique Mcgee, 46. The two died after the basement of their Lincoln Place home flooded during the storm. Recognizing Joann Mcgee’s grief, the township felt an overwhelming need to help and raised funds for the bereaved during her time of need.
The funeral for Mcgee’s husband and daughter was held Sept. 24, and Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss described how important it was to help lift Mcgee in this challenging time.
“One of the things that I took into consideration was the tragedy and things that everybody was going through, but when you begin to measure her losing her husband and her daughter and still have a lot of expenses that are related to that, whether it be the funeral or repairing the house, we just wanted to try to be as helpful as possible,” Vauss said Oct. 1. “She had to have plenty of property damage for them to be killed in the basement, so I’m assuming her basement has suffered a lot of damage.”
With an outpouring of generosity from various individuals, the township was successful in its fundraising efforts.
“The funeral was last Friday. We raised over $3,400 for Mrs. Mcgee. Most of it was cash donations but there were some checks,” Vauss said. “We had donations from police officers, firefighters, city hall employees and myself. I contributed $1,000 of the money that was raised.”
To get the Irvington community to chip in, all Vauss had to do was ask.
“What I did was ask people if they could contribute and most people did $5 to $10 contributions,” he said. “I personally gave her the donations at her house on Wednesday, Sept. 22, which was a couple of days before the funeral.”
According to Vauss, Mcgee received additional support from various elected officials.
“I know FEMA spoke to her and Gov. Phil Murphy did come and meet with her,” Vauss said, adding that U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr. spoke with her as well. “I brought her to my house, which is where he met with her. He gave her his condolences, prayed with her and acknowledged her terrible loss.”
Vauss also stressed that, while Mcgee has suffered more than most, many Irvington residents were deeply affected by the storm.
“I went through this myself,” he said. “I lost everything in my house, my basement and my cat drowned, so forth and so on. But I always take into consideration that there are people a lot worse than I am due to this tragedy. I just can’t fathom losing two family members due to this storm. That was the motivation behind (the fundraising). We did it without any fanfare and we didn’t tell anyone. I called her and told her what I wanted to do for her, and she was taken aback. We wanted to give her something to help her out in any way.”
Mcgee has expressed her gratitude to the township for its help; though she has not yet received help from FEMA, she has completed the necessary paperwork for assistance.
Additionally, a GoFundMe page set up by Shenique Mcgee’s employer, Wonder Inc., has raised more than $9,000 for the family.
“As a result of the storm, we’re deeply saddened that one of our Wonder team members, Shenique Mcgee, passed away at her home in New Jersey,” the fundraiser page read. “Shenique was loved by her colleagues and recognized as a top performer…. Wonder is committed to honoring Shenique’s life and supporting her family during this tragedy. In addition to supporting her family with funeral expenses, we’ve set up this campaign to collect donations for her family from any employee who would like to contribute and will match every donation dollar for dollar. Every dollar raised will be donated to Shenique’s family.”
Photos Courtesy of Tony Vauss and Shenique Mcgee’s Facebook page