Little — in fact, nearly nothing other than the “Still Here,” driftwood sign Audrey Jill Sherry spray painted outside her hurricane-torn home — offered any hope last December that her home remained inhabited. What belonged inside the house — furniture, clothes and photos of family long gone — was now packed into 200 garbage bags that filled two dumpsters. They stood on the front lawn amid water-slogged shoes, an upended kitchen table, crushed Christmas decorations and a torn American flag. Meanwhile, dead fish, rocks, shells and mud up to the rafters now took the furniture’s place.
Two cedar trees felled by the storm gouged the roof. A 60-foot-tall tree, now split in two, splayed across the lawn. Ms. Sherry’s home now had no doors and no windows. There was no electricity, no heat, no hot water. Even Ms. Sherry’s truck had been washed away.
“I was too stunned to even ask for help,” says Ms. Sherry who lived in the two-story brick-faced Seaview Avenue home for more than three decades.
Ms. Sherry learned about the Hurricane Sandy Restoration Center established and staffed by Catholic Charities and fellow first responders four weeks after Hurricane Sandy washed more than nine feet of water into her home. She called and met with Catholic Charities Disaster Case Manager Supervisor Elizabeth Netherwood 10 minutes later.
“She opened up her heart and arms, telling me ‘I can do this for you; I can help you,” Ms. Sherry says. “It was a turning point; I realized I needed help and I was going to get it.”
Ms. Netherwood linked Ms. Sherry to services offered by FEMA and other first responders. She gave her Salvation Army gift certificates. And she used Catholic Charities funds to purchase a $699 generator to heat and electrify Ms. Sherry’s home.
The generator lifted Ms. Sherry’s spirits while inserting a dose of reality. She could now clearly see mold growing on her peeling walls and the shattered glass wedged between her buckling floors.
She scrubbed, cleaned, and hosed down the inside of the house as if it were a shower. And slowly, with help, she began to rebuild.
Buttressed by the support she received, she brought blankets to a neighbor who has cancer and clothes to a vendor down the street who lost his hotdog truck to the storm.
“For every kindness given to me I need to pay that forward,” she says as she takes a break from scrubbing her home. “I don’t know what the next step is; I just know in my heart that I will be provided for as long as I do my part and I know that I’ll be okay.”