Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Sandy’

Hard Working People Trying to Get Back Their Life

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Merriss Morris and Merline Coke

By Alice Kenny

Merline and Howard Coke have been cobbling together make-shift solutions to keep their home livable and their home daycare business functioning ever since Hurricane Sandy slammed the house they rent in Yonkers nearly a year ago.  Hurricane Sandy tore off shingles from its roof and flooding water soaked sheet-rocked walls and wooden floors. The house began to shift and sink.  Damages were determined to be so severe that their landlord filed a claim with his insurance company for $137,000.

Yet now, as the one-year anniversary of the Superstorm approaches, no significant repairs have been made to the house.  This has left the Cokes in a Catch 22.  To afford to move, the Cokes need income from the daycare business that Ms. Coke operates on their rental home’s first floor.  But families have hesitated to send their children to the daycare center until it is fully repaired.  Meanwhile, Mr. Coke’s income in building services barely covers the family’s expenses.  And their savings are nearly depleted.

The Cokes did what they could to shore the house up from the inside.  They dried sodden floors, replaced sheetrock and painted walls and ceilings.  But the roof remains damaged and the house continues to shift. So repaired walls and ceilings crack and floors tilt.

Unfamiliar and uncomfortable with asking for help, the Cokes did not contact Catholic Charities Disaster Case Management until May.  Unfortunately, this was one month past FEMA’s deadline to apply for assistance with rent and money to move. Undeterred, Catholic Charities Disaster Case Manager Merris Morris assisted the family with applying for and appealing FEMA’s determination.  To help them move, Ms. Morris helped them successfully apply for funding from the Westchester Department of Social Services, the Bridge Program and the United Way. Catholic Charities also gave the Cokes a $500 gift card to help purchase clothes and supplies for their two teenage children plus the two-year old nephew they have raised since birth.

“It’s tough when you’re in the middle, when you’re not on welfare but don’t earn enough to own your own home,” Ms. Morris says.  “These are hardworking people just trying to get back their life.”

Now six children – all age four and under – participate in Ms. Coke’s daycare center, sampling stacks of primary-colored plastic toys and following posted schedule for playtime, learning, naps and meals.  Toddlers follow and are quickly cuddled by Ms. Coke as she walks from room to room.

Finding an affordable place to move, however, remains difficult.  Her family, Ms. Coke said, “is packed and ready to go…but there is nowhere to go.”  Their search to find a house they can afford with an accessory apartment a landlord will allow for use as a daycare center has, so far, proven unsuccessful.

Their disaster case manager has spoken with realtors and received Catholic Charities’ commitment to help the family with moving expenses once they find a new home.

 

“We lost everything,” Says This Sandy Survivor. “And when I say everything I mean everything.”

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

DCM Valeriya Osipova

By Alice Kenny

Evelyn Schwabacher, 51, and her son, Dominic, 23, were left with nothing but the bags of clothes they ran out of their home with the day that Hurricane Sandy struck Staten Island.

Ms. Schwabacher lived almost all her life in a two-story home on Zustan St. in New Dorp Beach, Staten Island.  She grew up there.  She returned there and raised with help from her parents her son and daughter after her husband died 18 years ago.  And she said goodbye to her mother there when the elderly woman died a year before Hurricane Sandy stormed through the island.

But when ocean water filled the house all the way up to its second floor destroying all she owned, multiple disaster relief agencies told her she was ineligible for help.

“We lost everything,” Ms. Schwabacher said.  “And when I say everything I mean everything.”

The only belongings that survived were two photos that hung above their fireplace mantle, one of her children and one of her parents taken the day they married.  For days following the flood, her father carried that wedding photo with him wherever he went.

FEMA gave Ms. Schwabacher’s eighty-year-old father enough to enable him to leave Staten Island and its memories behind.  He bought an inexpensive condo in Florida and began a new life.

But FEMA said that Ms. Schwabacher and her son, who together paid her father a nominal $400/month rent, were ineligible for disaster recovery assistance.  So she contacted Catholic Charities Disaster Case Manager Valeriya Osipova for help. Ms. Osipova contacted Red Cross.  The agency initially approved, then reversed its approval of rental assistance, citing FEMA’s determination as its reason for denial.  Ms. Osipova also spoke with an attorney Staten Island Legal Services.

Meanwhile, things turned ugly in the apartment that Ms. Schwabacher and her son temporarily shared with a friend after the hurricane hit. So she called Ms. Osipova on a Saturday afternoon to ask that she help her move out quickly. Ms. Osipova worked with the social service agency, Project Hospitality, to immediately obtain and pay for a rental room at Cosmopolitan Hotel for Ms. Schwabacher and her son.

They stayed at the hotel for two weeks.  But they needed a long-range plan.  They could not afford to live on their own with the income Ms. Schwabacher earned as a waitress and he earned working minimum wage jobs.  Similar to her father, she wanted, she said, to put behind her the nightmare of Hurricane Sandy and the hard times that followed.

A cousin living in Stone Mountain, Georgia suggested Ms. Schwabacher and her son move there where rents are cheap and jobs are plentiful.  Since Ms. Schwabacher had no savings, her disaster case manager made the move possible by drawing on Sandy relief funds to cover Ms. Schwabacher’s rental deposit and first month’s rent.

Ms. Schwabacher phoned Ms. Osipova for help on a Saturday afternoon.  Thanks to the support and counseling Ms. Osipova provided, Ms. Schwabacher and her son moved to Georgia, found work and rented an apartment two weeks later.  Ms. Schwabacher and her son drove with a cousin to Georgia.  She interviewed for a waitressing job at a local International House of Pancakes the following day.   She and her son then found an affordable one-bedroom apartment.  The $900 deposit and first month’s rent were paid with Catholic Charities Sandy Relief funds.   Meanwhile, Ms. Schabacher’s son applied for multiple jobs and expects to land one at Wal-Mart.

“It’s still hard for me to believe that within 20 days of calling Catholic Charities for help I was able to land a job, find an apartment and began my life again,” Ms. Schwabacher said.   “Valeriya stood by me; if it weren’t for her, I had no place to go.”

Back-To-School Gift Cards for Families Hurt by Hurricane Sandy

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Reaching out to Staten Island students still suffering from Hurricane Sandy, Catholic Charities and its partners distributed 150 Back-to-School $250 Visa gift certificates last week at the Catholic Charities Community Services Center at 120 Anderson Avenue.

Catholic Charities Staten Island partnered at the event with Lutheran Social Services of New York, the Jewish Community Center of Staten Island, Center for Independence of the Disabled New York, and Arab American Family Support Center.

Were you hurt by Hurricane Sandy and are still struggling to recover?

Whether you have applied for FEMA or not — even if you were not eligible or were denied assistance — there may be local resources available for you. A trained, compassionate case manager can work one-on-one with you to:

  • Answer your questions about recovery
  • Develop a plan to address your needs
  • Connect you with appropriate community resources
  • Determine what financial assistance may be available to you
  • Advocate on your behalf with service and benefit providers

Call the Sandy Referral Line: 855-258-0483

Call Today – Help is Here: Monday – Friday: 9a.m. to 5p.m.

Click here to find a local agency.

Our Prayers for All Hurt by Massive Colorado Floods; Our Help for Disaster Survivors

Monday, September 16th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Our thoughts and prayers are with all hurt by the massive flooding that already damaged nearly 20,000 homes in 15 Colorado counties and, as of last night, left 1,243 persons unaccounted for.

As New Yorkers who struggled through Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storm Irene, we know firsthand about coping with natural disasters.

At Catholic Charities, we know firsthand how to help.

Please remember that we are here to help during disasters and every day.

From disaster response professionals visiting parishes to deliver information and resources, to volunteers collecting and distributing food and supplies, to neighbors checking in on neighbors, the entire Catholic Charities community responds to meet the human needs of the victims, providing help and creating hope for rebuilding lives.

Many still struggle to recover from Hurricane Sandy. If you need help recovering from Hurricane Sandy,
please click on this link.

Click here for Help.

Click here to Help.

Help is here.

Surviving Sandy; This Year There Are No Roses

Friday, August 30th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Raindrops pour down a battered picket fence dotted with Mickey and Minnie Mouse paintings surrounding Marina Babkina’s two-story attached home in Midland Beach. They serve as faded reminders of a once-thriving international daycare center and home now struggling to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy touched down in this Staten Island enclave.

Ms. Babkina’s Karousel Daycare Center and Fairytale music studio provided crucial support for her predominantly Russian-born neighbors. In addition to allowing parents to work worry free, it helped young children, many of whom spoke no English, acclimate to their new lives in the United States.

“The human brain is set up to distinguish music before it distinguishes speech,” says Ms. Babkina, a U.S. citizen who emigrated from Russia nearly 20 years ago and holds masters degrees in music and economics. So Ms. Bakina, a widow whose husband died of cancer in 2002, used songs and instruments ranging from guitars to keyboards to help her tiny charges, 14 in all, learn language, math and art.

That ended when Hurricane Sandy pushed waves from the Atlantic Ocean that roars just one block away into the basement and first floor that housed her business. Meanwhile, 90- mile-an-hour winds ripped through her second-floor skylights, destroying the walls, floors and furniture that made up her home.

Ms. Babkina evacuated. But her adult son, Ilya, returned to save instruments stored in the finished basement. Instead, he nearly drowned. Forty-degree ocean water filled the lower room. He escaped by pulling himself up the cellar stairs, pushing his way out the front door and swimming nearly 15 blocks up Hyland Blvd. Finally, he reached dry land.

Yet at first, Ms. Babkina seemed like one of the lucky ones. Unlike many of her neighbors, she had flood insurance.

But she used up her flood insurance – $50,000 in all — to replace windows, walls, cabinets and appliances before engineers noticed that her house was shifting. Chocking on scents of mold mixed with sawdust, Ms. Bakina points to cracks zigzagging her windows and walls, salt water still flowing along her foundation and a jagged 12-square-foot gap in cement, a reminder of a cracked pipe that had to be dug up beneath her basement.

Her Catholic Charities Disaster Case Manager, Valerya Osipova, is helping this once-independent woman navigate a new world characterized by FEMA and forms, hope and desperation.

It has not been easy.

 

Ms. Babkina’s home is wedged in the middle of five attached houses. Construction engineers now recommend building pillars that would extend from deep in the ground to the houses’ roofs to shore up the now shifting homes. This, however, requires consent and financial support from all five homeowners as well as their insurance companies.

 

Meanwhile, Ms. Babkina is unable to move back into her home, reestablish the business that once paid her bills or provide the daycare that allowed many of her neighbors to work.

 

Ms. Osipova is helping Ms. Babkina negotiate with FEMA and with her insurance company. She obtained a $500 grant to replace the battered fence with a new one to allow Ms. Babkina to reopen her daycare business. She lined up donations that range from flooring to skylights and furniture between. She provided her with food from a Catholic Charities food pantry, helped her apply for food stamps and linked her with other government programs that Ms. Bakina once thought she would never need. And she serves as a comfort and sounding board when the time and energy needed to maintain the struggle seems too much for her to bear.

 

“It’s not easy,” Ms. Babkina says, pointing out a plot of dirt once filled by rose bushes that would bloom on her July birthday. “This year, there are no roses.”


Riding Leprechaun Buses; Running for Team Catholic Charities

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

By Ed Gallagher

Many lives have been forever changed and even destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon. It heightened my resolve to live life more fully and not procrastinate on my dreams and goals. These two devastating events, one natural, one man made, exemplified the dichotomy of life:  Life is truly fragile, but it is also amazingly resilient for those that survive.

I have never run a marathon, but it has always been on my “bucket list”. I figured I’d better do it sooner than later as I know it won’t get any easier as each year passes.

I grew up as a competitive swimmer, starting at age 5. I started running cross country in high school to get in shape for the winter swim season. I instantly fell in love with many aspects of running; the challenge both mental and physical, the solitude of training and camaraderie of race day. It gives me time to think about issues at work and home, put life into perspective and be a better husband, father, friend and employer.

I stopped running for many years as I got involved with family business and started a family. I am president of The Leprechaun Transportation Group, a small group of passenger transportation companies providing school bus, transit, commuter and charter motor coach service in the Hudson Valley and beyond. It is a third-generation family-owned enterprise started by my grandfather in 1934. My hope is that it becomes a fourth-generation family business.

My wife, Mary Jane, and I live with our four children; Katie, 15, Caroline 14, Eddie, 12, and Joseph, 9, in Montgomery, NY.  We are members of Most Precious Blood parish and our kids have attended this parish school.

I began running again a few years ago to be able to keep up with my kids, lose my “spare tire” and be fit mentally and physically.

Meanwhile, several years ago Sr. Joann Dress, CEO of Catholic Charities Community Services of Orange County, approached me to become a board member. I agreed with little understanding of the full extent of their work.  From day one, I have been thoroughly impressed with the board’s and staff’s dedication, passion, focus and operational efficiencies of this organization. They touch so many lives in this community.  You can’t help but be drawn to help with their mission.

Running as a member of Team Catholic Charities allows me to fulfill a personal goal while also fulfilling a charitable goal.

I truly appreciate this opportunity.

Help support Ed’s ING NYC Marathon campaign. Click here to find out how: www.crowdrise.com/CatholicCharitiesNYC2013/fundraiser/edgallagher

Going door to door, tent to shed, to serve those still suffering from Superstorm Sandy.

Friday, July 26th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Although nine months have passed since Hurricane Sandy pushed ocean waves down the streets of Staten Island’s Midland Beach, upending cars, flooding homes and destroying nearly everything in its wake, some residents of this seaside community still live in makeshift tents and sheds.  Some even sleep on park benches.

Many still need assistance with basic needs such as food and shelter. This includes children, the elderly, and new immigrants. Nine months into this disaster and many believe they have nowhere to turn for help.

A number of local volunteer organizations have been created or expanded to address these needs. “Every night a volunteer goes out in search of those still in need of a meal and a place to sleep,” says Catholic Charities Community Development Coordinator Lourdes Ferrer.

Over three hundred Sandy survivors already receive support from Catholic Charities disaster case managers stationed at Catholic Charities’ office at 120 Anderson Avenue in Staten Island. But rather than just waiting for Sandy survivors to come to Catholic Charities, disaster case managers also go to them.

Catholic Charities manages the New York State Disaster Case Management Program. Designed to streamline support and avoid frustration and confusion, the Disaster Case Management program whittles down the complex system of disaster support by providing survivors with a single point of contact to access a broad range of resources. This allows people still reeling from the loss of jobs and homes to avoid the need to search out multiple organizations that might respond to their various needs. Instead, survivors can relate their experiences and submit their documentation to a single, local disaster case manager who guides them through the recovery process.

Many residents of Staten Island never before had to ask for social service help and were unsure of the value of these services.  They initially hoped they could do everything themselves.

So Catholic Charities teamed up with local “hubs,” ad hoc service centers that sprang up in neighborhoods hit hardest by the hurricane to provide food, water, clothing, supplies and services, educate the community and reach more of those in need.   Case managers from Catholic Charities now help staff the Staten Island Alliance office on Colony Ave, enrolling many new clients into the program and meeting with existing clients.  Case managers are also able to meet with clients in their homes.  To extend these services, Catholic Charities disaster case managers are preparing to staff another hub in the New Dorp neighborhood in Staten Island. By meeting staff at home, in local hubs and Catholic Charities offices, hurricane survivors can feel comfortable in familiar surroundings close to home among people they know.

“People think that because so many months have passed, that everything is back to ‘normal’,” Lourdes said. “But the reality is there are communities in Staten Island that are still recovering and struggling to accept the new ‘normal’.”

Run in the World’s Biggest Marathon for the World’s Greatest Cause

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Join Team Catholic Charities for the ING New York City Marathon.

Race numbers are striking:

  • 26.2-mile course winding through all five boroughs in the Greatest City in the World
  • 100,000-plus race applicants
  • 37,000 racing participants
  • 2,000,000 spectators

The need you will be running for is striking as well:

  • 40,000 New York school children have no place to call home
  • 365,000 people look for work in New York City every day but cannot find it
  • One in four families live in poverty
  • 1,400,000 New Yorkers – that’s one out of every six of our neighbors – rely daily on emergency food
  • Tens of thousands of people left  homeless after Hurricane Sandy lost their furniture, clothing and all that they owned.
  • Thousands still struggle to recover

Team Catholic Charities runners train for top physical condition to cross the finish line AND  cut back on our neighbors’ growing need.

Catholic Charities, partnering with  New York Road Runners, is an official Charity partner in this year’s ING New York City Marathon.  Our ten-person team plans to raise $30,000 to directly benefit our St. Nicholas Project.

Catholic Charities’ St. Nicholas Project provides:

  • job training and computer literacy classes to help New Yorkers find work
  • food pantries to make sure hungry New Yorkers have food
  • school supplies so children in need can keep up with their classmates
  • essential items including towels, sheets, blankets, coats, hats, gloves, scarves and pajamas so that New Yorkers stay warm all year.

Find out more

Join Team Catholic Charities

  

Explore Our Interactive Annual Report Online

Monday, June 10th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

We’re proud to announce our interactive 2012 Annual Report. 

Check out this easy-access gateway filled with videos and multimedia devices.

Learn firsthand about Catholic Charities services.

Hear directly from our clients, donors and staff.

Listen to their stories.

See and hear for yourself what makes the work we do at Catholic Charities so special.  Tell us what you think.

Bridging the Gap between Wealth and Want

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Looking for a sneak peek inside the lives and work at Catholic Charities?

  • Meet Vladimir, a teenager from rural El Salvador who thought he was the only child born without hearing; the Incognitos, a couple married 50 years now struggling to stay together despite illness and Erin, a cancer survivor whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
  • Meet Julia Schafer and MaryEllen Ferrera, Catholic Charities case managers who helped rebuild their lives.
  • Meet Catherine Kinney and Stanley Grayson, leaders on Catholic Charities’ Board of Trustees.
  • And listen as Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan and His Excellency Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan explain how Catholic Charities bridges the gap between wealth and want in Stories of Help & Hope 2013, the latest of Catholic Charities’ powerful online videos.

“Catholic Charities builds bridges,” Msgr. Sullivan says, “the bridges needed to connect New York’s great resources – public and private – to provide help that creates hope for each person, made in God’s image and likeness, non-Catholic and Catholic alike.”

It builds bridges inside and out.

“Catholic Charities was like family,” Erin says as she describes the hurricane that stole all she owned. “Finally I had a support system behind me that I didn’t get from anyplace else.  It’s not just rebuilding our house; it’s rebuilding our lives.”

Watch Stories of Help & Hope 2013 now.