Repairing the Homes, Lives of Sandy Victims

May 1, 2013 • United States

Volunteers are helping people still affected by the superstorm return home in New Jersey and New York

When Superstorm Sandy ravaged the Northeast on Oct. 29, Samaritan’s Purse responded immediately, deploying relief within hours of the disaster. After coordinating more than 8,600 volunteers who cleared debris, removed downed trees, and made emergency repairs for more than 1,300 homeowners in need, we are transitioning into the rebuild and repair phase of the response.

GiveWe plan to help between 35 to 40 people return home over the course of the next two years from our sites in Tom’s River, New Jersey, and Island Park, N.Y. The repairs and new homes are at no cost to homeowners, who were chosen because they lack the means to restore their own homes or because they lost their houses completely in the hurricane.

Deliriously Happy

Linda Micca of Lavalette, New Jersey, was the first homeowner to have her house repaired by Samaritan’s Purse. In addition to standard home repair, Samaritan’s Purse was able to provide her with a completely new and functioning kitchen, including all new appliances.

Micca said more than three feet of water flooded her home, and her kitchen was completely unusable after the storm. She had already run out of the federal assistance she received in the aftermath of the storm, so she was left without many options.

“I just can’t even tell you how deliriously happy I am with the work they have done,” Micca said. “I will always be indebted to them and what they did for me. Every morning they brought me peace of mind. We prayed every day they were here. It was great. I’m just grateful and very lucky to have them.”

Jane Timmons of Tom’s River, New Jersey, is next on the list of homeowners receiving repairs to her badly damaged house.

“It’s an answer to prayer,” she said. “Right now living with the house all broken, it will be wonderful to have my house put back together again.”

Timmons first heard about Samaritan’s Purse after Hurricane Katrina hit the South in 2005, when a TV program covered the Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief efforts.

Hurricane Sandy rebuild New Jersey Samaritan's Purse 2“My financial situation wasn’t so great at the time, but I sent them a check,” Timmons said. “I was happy I was able to do something, never thinking that years later I would be in this situation and that they would come and help me like they had blessed so many people. I’m really moved that God provides for us when we are in need.”

More than four feet of water inundated the first floor of her house. She said it came like a tidal wave, quicker than she could have imagined. Her electrical work was affected and her hot water heater was submerged. The outside of her house also received quite a bit of damage, including the roof, which lost many shingles.

Even though the hurricane was months ago, there’s still water between the glass panes in her sliding glass door. But the thing she remembers the most is the terrible smell all the stagnant water residing in her home caused.

“The smell would give you a headache,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. If it wasn’t for [Samaritan’s Purse volunteers] coming and ripping everything out immediately the way they did, we may have lost the house completely. I don’t think I would have been able to get that smell out.”

Timmons is excited to be among the first homeowners to receive repair help, especially after volunteers had already done so much for her with the initial relief efforts.

“I am very, very grateful that there are people out there who are willing to give their time and energy to help others,” she said.

New Challenges

Hurricane Sandy rebuild New Jersey Samaritan's Purse 3Along with repairing damaged homes and building new houses from the ground up, Samaritan’s Purse will be undertaking the challenge of complying with new housing regulations put in place after the severe flooding that occurred. Houses will be raised off the ground between seven and 10 feet high, depending on the location.

Samaritan’s Purse provided similar services in New Orleans for Katrina victims whose homes were raised to meet flood insurance standards. However, the regulations were not as high as the requirement for Sandy victims, posing an even greater challenge.

“To the extent we’re talking about now, we’ve never done anything quite that much,” said Andy Beauchamp, program manager for the New Jersey site.

To fully achieve this extensive repair effort, Samaritan’s Purse is relying on the help of both volunteers and professional contractors. Professional contractors are needed because volunteers are not equipped with the skills necessary to effectively raise the houses.

Hurricane Sandy rebuild New Jersey Samaritan's Purse 1Currently, two houses are having the first floors repaired, four more houses are undergoing the approval process, and four more applications have been submitted. With the extent of the damage in New Jersey and New York, more houses will be selected for repair, and more volunteers are needed to help make this project a reality.

Those who volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse projects often have a profound affect on many of the victims they help. Micca said she made friends with many of the people who worked on her home. In fact, she said she’s taking her granddaughter and daughter to the Samaritan’s Purse rebuild office next week to have dinner with the volunteers who invited her to share a meal.

“They were wonderful,” she said. “What they did for me, no one would do.”

U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of disaster relief volunteers to provide emergency aid to U.S. victims of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In the aftermath of major storms, we often stay behind to rebuild houses for people with nowhere else to turn for help.

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