Angels In Hardhats: Volunteers Repair Homes Affected By Hurricane Sandy
In a time when our world seems so divided, it’s heartwarming to see people come together to rebuild the homes of others out of the goodness of their hearts. The non-profit Rebuilding Together NYC (RTNYC) and hundreds of volunteers gathered in Gerritsen Beach on Saturday, October 29th – the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy - to provide free home repairs for families still suffering from storm damage four years later.
The volunteers, many of whom were from Emmanuel Baptist Church, repaired five homes, three gardens and installed solar-powered lights throughout the neighborhood with the help of professionals from Shawmut Design and Construction, Dal Electric, M&T Plumbing, Columbia Habitat for Humanity and Open Architecture NY to lay flooring, secure ceilings, replace shed roofs, repair exterior walls and renovate community spaces. It was truly moving to watch the volunteers and homeowners work side by side, toiling away together.
It was also touching to see the passion in Executive Director Kimberly George’s eyes as she discussed the work she has been doing with RTNYC. “It’s important for all of us to keep working until every family in a Sandy-damaged home can get back a safe, healthy place to live,” she said and it was clear she meant it. “When the Build It Back Program began, there were 22,000 applicants and to date, 8,500 remain,” she shared. That is where RTNYC comes in, having already repaired 108 homes and 28 community centers.
RTNYC has also done work in Canarsie, thanks in part to the Canarsie Courier’s extensive coverage of similar events. “One of your readers contacted us for assistance after seeing our work in the paper, and we were able to make some repairs for her and install a much-needed wheelchair ramp,” said George, who loves what she does and how rewarding it is to make an impact. “We’re not just rebuilding homes here,” she said. “We’re rebuilding lives.”
Also in attendance to show their support for the program were State Senator Martin Golden, former Gerritsen Beach Fire Chief Doreen Garson, Councilman Alan Maisel and Councilman Mark Treyger. In an exclusive interview with the Canarsie Courier, New York City Councilman and Chair of the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency Mark Treyger expressed his sincere gratitude to the staff members and the volunteers of RTNYC, with whom he shares a major vision.
As an advocate for low and middle-income families living paycheck to paycheck, Treyger is vitally concerned about those still struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy. “There are people paying mortgages on homes they have not been able to live in these past four years, people paying out of their own pockets for temporary housing, people who have not been able to secure housing that accommodates for their disabilities who have been given an unreasonable amount of time before being kicked out of the program,” he said.
“These people don’t want to hear excuses. They want to hear hammers and nails,” he said, which is why he has been working tirelessly with the City Council to cut through the bureaucracy and ensure that every single person impacted receives the help they deserve. “On the four-year anniversary we have to take stock of the progress that has been made and see how much work remains to be done,” he said. He pledged to continue fighting for homeowners to secure the kind of victories that would help them to rebuild their lives.
A daunting task for sure but entirely possible if we all stand together. As the saying goes, “We rise by lifting others.” To volunteer or to learn more about Rebuilding Together NYC, visit www.rebuildingtogethernyc.org.