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.”