Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Charities Staten Island’

Electrocuted During Hurricane Sandy, Survivor Struggles to Recover

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

 By Alice Kenny

Leaning on his black cane, Fujimoto Takashi, 64, struggles to pronounce words that convey the terror he felt the afternoon his basement apartment in Midland Beach, Staten Island, morphed into a whirlpool of chairs, refrigerator, motion and mementos.

Born in Hiroshima four years after the atom bomb was dropped there, Mr. Takashi already knew devastation first hand.  He grew up believing, he said, that if he could make his way to the United States he would find a safe place to thrive.

For a long time, his plan seemed to work.  Mr. Takashi moved to California in 1977.  He developed a career as a photographer.  And he later made his home in Staten Island.

Never did he suspect, he said, that a disaster spurred by nature and not by man would nearly kill him. But when Hurricane Sandy tore through Staten Island, the subsequent flooding inside his basement apartment electrocuted and nearly drowned him.  It destroyed his health, his home and his means of making a living.

“Growing up in Hiroshima I helped other people and felt their pain; now others are feeling my pain,” Mr. Takashi said.  “Catholic Charities gave me the encouragement I needed to not give up.”

Monday, October 29, began like most days, Mr. Takashi said.  He was fixing a camera light plugged into the wall of in his Andrews Street apartment.

Suddenly he noticed water pouring in under his front door.  He grabbed for the camera light plug.

But it was too late.  Electrical currents bore through his right calf.  They shot in one end, out the other and left a hole as their memento.   He suffered a stroke, he recalled, then passed out.

He awoke to the taste of salt water, bouncing on furniture that floated five feet above the floor.  His right arm and leg no longer functioned.

“Help me!” Fuji shouted.

Hurricane winds and neighbors’ panic smothered his screams.  Night came and went. Fifteen hours passed.  Water receded.  His energy waned.

Finally, at 10:30 the following morning, his landlord knocked on his door.

Much of what happened next is blur, he said.  An ambulance rushed him to some hospital – he can’t remember which.  Later he was transferred to Staten Island University Hospital. For 38 days doctors treated burns that covered much of his body and physical and mental repercussions from his stroke.  Finally, he was transferred to Golden Gate Nursing Home where therapists began teaching him how to walk again.

After two months in a hospital and rehabilitation center, he was released to go home.

But everything had changed.  Hurricane Sandy stole much of his memory and mobility.  It destroyed his photographic equipment, stealing his livelihood.  And it tore apart his home, leaving his furniture, clothing – all he owned – rotting and covered with mold.

“When I came back home I had nothing,” Mr. Takashi said.

His landlord gave him a blanket and an air mattress.  But the mattress leaked.

“It was like sleeping on the floor,” Fuji added.

Fortunately, an associate of Fuji’s learned of his plight and called Catholic Charities for help.

Catholic Charities Staten Island has taken a leadership role in partnering with nonprofit organizations to speed services and support to residents of this borough devastated by Hurricane Sandy.  From disaster-response professionals who visit parishes to deliver information and resources, to volunteers who collect and distribute food and supplies, to neighbors checking in on neighbors, the entire Catholic Charities community responded, providing help, creating hope and rebuilding lives.

Since Mr. Takashi’s stroke left him wheelchair bound and confused, Catholic Charities Case Manager Marvin Walker visited him in his home.  Mr. Walker helped Mr. Takashi apply successfully for a variety of grants and subsidies including new furniture from Project Hospitality, appliances from the Staten Island Back to Basics initiative, gift cards to cover necessities from the Siller Foundation, help paying heating bills from the federal Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), food stamps from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and disaster recovery financial assistance from FEMA.  He helped Mr. Takashi apply for Access-a-Ride, bus rides catered for persons with disabilities.  And he gave Mr. Takashi food from Catholic Charities food pantries along with clothing, pots, pans, utensils and other household necessities.

Meanwhile, Catholic Charities Volunteer Services paired Fuji up with Catholic Charities Anderson Avenue Senior Director Marni Caruso.  She volunteered to drive Mr. Takashi during her personal time to medical appointments and meetings with the numerous government agencies that suddenly play a large role in his life.

Fuji’s road to recovery remains long and difficult.  He has progressed from wheelchair to walker to cane.  Many memories remain hazy.  His finances remain tight.

“I never thought I would have to depend on others,” Fuji says.  “But without Catholic Charities I couldn’t have survived.”

Sadness Tempered by Solidarity

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

By Alice Kenny

Sadness tempered by solidarity are sentiments Sherise Alleyne, Disaster Case Management Supervisor in Middletown, NY, says she senses most among Hurricane Sandy victims.  To bolster hurricane recovery efforts and team up with Catholic Charities Staten Island, she, along with dozens of fellow Catholic Charities NY staff and volunteers normally stationed north of Staten Island, make four-to-six-hour round trips from their offices to the flooded island.

“Shell shocked is an understatement,” she said describing disaster victims she has met at the Staten Island Disaster Recovery Center manned by staff from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Sunday.  “We’re working with people who suddenly have nothing; no home, no clothing, no food.”

A widow drenched in tears approached her recently.  The elderly woman, she said, just learned that the home she once shared with her husband who died five years ago — the same home he had grown up in and was filled with most of their memories – had been tagged “red” by inspectors, shorthand for beyond repair and scheduled for demolition.

Catholic Charities Staten Island has taken a leadership role partnering with first responders and nonprofit organizations to speed services and support to this widow and other residents devastated by the super storm. They provide everything from heaters, clothing and furniture vouchers, counseling, information and referral and volunteer help with removing water damaged sheet rock and insulation.

To make sure that displaced families can still celebrate the holiday season they also provide gifts and donated Kmart gift cards. Catholic Charities also created a volunteer framework so that residents can help residents, fostering the sense of community so crucial for the long recovery process.

“People need our help now more than ever,” Ms. Alleyne said after her most recent visit to Staten Island.  “They need to know the community is with them.”

Catholic Charities Staten Island Spearheading Hurricane Recovery Efforts

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

By Alice Kenny

Catholic Charities Staten Island has taken a leadership role partnering with nonprofit organizations to speed services and support to residents of this borough devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

Joseph Panepinto, director of Catholic Charities Staten Island Services, said he’ll meet Nov. 27 with various nonprofits on the Island to assess available resources and needs in the community.

“We want to see what everybody’s capacity is,” said Panepinto, a native Staten Islander. “For me, it’s personal. We will not see anybody go cold or hungry.”

Click here to learn more.

To contribute to ongoing recovery efforts:

Text SANDY to 85944 to make a one-time $10 donation.

Thanksgiving Dinner for Those in Need: The More the Merrier.

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

By Alice Kenny

Temperatures are dropping; thousands remain homeless and recovery needs from Hurricane Sandy are changing by the day.

“Our main concern now is the weather getting cold again, “says Michael Neely, assistant to the director of Catholic Charities Staten Island.  “We need to help people get through the week and somehow have a Thanksgiving to celebrate.”

So Catholic Charities CYO Center, in partnership with Our Lady Help of Christians Church, Project Hospitality, El Centro Del Inmigrante and the Hispanic Federation, are preparing a free Thanksgiving dinner celebration today for hundreds of persons in need at the CYO Center, 120 Anderson Ave.  Doors open at 11 a.m. The multi-course dinner includes everything from turkey and stuffing to deserts and gifts for children.  Perhaps, best of all, it offers a warm place to celebrate.

“The more the merrier,” Mr. Neely said.

Hurt by the storm? 

If you need help and don’t know where to turn, call our toll-free number, (888) 744 – 7900, and we will guide you through the recovery process.

Click here to learn more.

Would you like to help others recover?

Text SANDY to 85944 to make a one-time $10 donation

In Hurricane Sandy’s Wake; People’s Lives Left on Their Lawns

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Porcelain sinks and leather couches, family photos and TVs tumbled onto former housing lots where only brick staircases remain in Staten Island’s Midland Beach, the neighborhood slammed by the worst of Hurricane Sandy’s wrath.  With temperatures dropping into the 30s, people burned kitchen chairs for warmth.

“I saw people’s lives on their lawns,” said Michael Neely, assistant to the director of Catholic Charities Staten Island.  He and his boss, Joe Panepinto, director of Catholic Charities Staten Island, used phones, Facebook, family and friends to pull together a small army of more than 100 Catholic Charities staff, CYO coaches and volunteers last weekend to help hundreds of those hurt by the hurricane begin to rebuild their lives.

They began on Saturday with a map of Midland Beach.  They split themselves into groups of three, then went lot to lot to learn what storm victims needed most.  Mr. Neely manned a cell phone, sent staff, CYO coaches and volunteers to pick up water, clothing, blankets, whatever folks said they needed most, and sent another group to deliver these supplies.

To take the pulse of what else was needed Mr. Panepinto went that night to mass at Holy Rosary Parish, a church in the South Beach section of Staten Island that lost parishioners to the storm. Mr. Neely met with others there the following morning.

One of the volunteers, David Cardinale, president of USATees and a retired New York City firefighter, knocked on the door of an elderly couple who told him that they smelled gas.  Mr. Cardinale entered the home, asked for a pair of pliers and turned off four pilot lights on the stove that could have blown up the house at any point.

The group reconvened on Sunday at the expansive parking lot on the corner of Fr. Capodanno Blvd. and Hunter Ave. in Midland Beach where FEMA, the mayor’s office and a host of other groups and organizations had set up tents.  They helped organize mountains of donations – from hot pizzas, to down coats and disposable diapers – that came streaming in from nearby New Yorkers and  donors with license plates from as far away as North Carolina.

The Catholic Charities agencies in conjunction with the entire Archdiocese of New York is working closely with FEMA and other first responders to maximize resources available to those hit hard by the storm, non Catholics and Catholics alike.

“It’s like a war zone,” Mr. Neely said, “like something I never thought I would live long enough to see.”

Do you need help?

  • Call Catholic Charities Toll-free Helpline:  (888) 744-7900.
  • Click here for more resources and information

Would you like to help others recover?