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Mary Pat Christie: Relief Fund Began Nearly As Soon As Sandy Hit

'I Really Thought It Was Important To Think Long Term,' N.J. First Lady Says
Superstorm Sandy

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — It has been six months since the Tri-State Area was devastated by Superstorm Sandy, and when the storm hit New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie was front and center taking charge.

But behind the scenes, First Lady Mary Pat Christie was doing her part to help the Garden State recover. CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson spoke to Mrs. Christie about her charity relief fund.

The past six months have been a learning experience for Mrs. Christie. When Sandy hit, she knew New Jersey faced a long road to recovery.

“I really thought it was important to think long term,” she said.

CBS 2 met with Mrs. Christie as she visited with storm relief volunteers in Point Pleasant. Mrs. Christie discussed with Johnson what they each remembered the day after Sandy hit.

“We were on the air,” Johnson said. “I didn’t have the words to describe what I was seeing.”

“It’s true. I think the devastation was remarkable,” Mrs. Christie said. “Chris was calling governors, and they were sending the trucks and the utility crews. That made it real for me. That made me realize we can’t get through this on our own.”

Mrs. Christie said she and her governor husband were forced to move out of their home in Mendham.

“We were without electricity for eight days in Mendham,” she said, “and we did have the ability to go down to Princeton, and lived in the governor’s residence.”

While Mrs. Christie was taking care of things at home, her husband called her with a special request.

“He said, ‘We need to start a relief fund, and I’m going to put you in charge of it. So call these lawyers and get it going,’” Mrs. Christie said, “and he hung up.”

So far, the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund has raised over $34 million. To date, close to $7 million has been granted to recipients.

Mrs. Christie hopes to announce more grants soon, but she is being extra vigilant — making sure every dollar is accounted for.

“They want to be back in their homes yesterday, and I realize that,” she said, “so I would just say we are being diligent about getting money out in a proper and judicious way.”

Back at the Jersey Shore, it’s a race to rebuild before summer. But Mrs. Christie is optimistic.

“I tell people to come to the Jersey Shore; help us recover by coming and spending your dollars here this summer,” she said. “There’ll be plenty of things for them to do.”

The Hurricane Sandy relief fund says it expects to award an additional $4 million by the end of this week.

On Monday night, Johnson will sit down with Mary Pat Christie’s husband, Gov. Chris Christie himself. He will take CBS 2 behind the scenes – what it was like seeing the terrible images of destruction for the first time.

Governor Christie will even reveal his surprising reason behind his choice of attire – the blue fleece he was always seen wearing.

You can see Johnson’s interview with Gov. Christie Monday night, beginning on the CBS 2 News at Five.

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