Posts Tagged ‘first responders’

“Still Here” Proclaims Driftwood Sign by Sandy Survivor

Monday, August 12th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

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.”


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.”