Dario and Antoinette Veggian were all smiles on Saturday. The New Dorp couple has struggled since their basement was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy more than one year ago.
"It's still emotional, it's still hard to cope with," said Veggian, 68, a Vietnam veteran. "I did a lot of work to patch the house -- the best I can. I didn't have the money to tear it down and start from scratch and rebuild, so you patch it up and somehow try to get back to normal."
In the morning, normal came in the form of volunteers flooding the basement to install new sheetrock and insulation so the Veggians -- married 43 years -- can eventually reclaim their home.
"I am loving it," said Ms. Veggian, the home's owner for 48 years.
On Saturday, in honor of Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, close to 80 volunteers came out and hammered, nailed, painted, removed muck and installed sheetrock to help Sandy victims rebuild.
The effort was part of HOPE Worldwide's Sandy Recovery Program, which partnered with Yellow Boots, World Cares Center and Project Hospitality. The kick-off event is hoped to produce monthly repair and rebuild service projects here, said Nicole Nobles, national director of HOPE Worldwide, which partners with the International Churches of Christ.
Ms. Nobles, said that volunteers were mainly from churches on the Island, Brooklyn, and New Jersey. She noted there's a misconception that 15 months after Sandy, life is back to normal. "People assume a year has gone by and everything is fine and that's not the case, so we hope to make some awareness that that's what's going on and to be part of the solution," she said.
Karen Jackson, the Long Term Recovery Organization (LTRO) coordinator, said there's no denying the rebuilding need is great. "Over 5,000 people applied for the Build It Back program on Staten Island, but there are many more people who didn't apply for whatever reason," she said. She added the scope here is big enough that, "I don't think we really know exactly how many people are still displaced or how many homes need to be completely rebuilt."
Lindsay Einhorn, Island project manager for the World Cares Center, and co-chair of the Volunteer Recruitment, Coordination and Housing Committee for LTRO, said hosting this near King's holiday reminds people about life purpose. "This is what we are meant to do as a community -- support each other," she said.
In total, repair work was done on eight homes in Midland Beach and New Dorp. Registration and information were provided at program headquarters in the New Dorp Moravian Church. Then volunteers fanned out the sites to get down to the nitty gritty.
John Beene, 39, of Sea View, a minister at the Staten Island division of the New York City Church for Christ and a longtime Sandy volunteer, said a shoulder injury resigned him to baby-sitting his four children, so wife, Chandra, 42, came to the rescue.
"We are doing a role reversal today," he said. "I'm doing child care and she's doing manual labor."
For her part, Mrs. Beene said she was undaunted by the work and was very happy to see the progress. "When we walked in the room nothing was there and now as you walk in there's insulation around the room and we are almost through with the walls... It's exciting," she said.
Yellow Boots Co-Founder Ross Decker said that many have "fallen through the cracks" of the city's Build It Back Program. He said combined Yellow Boots and other groups have a list of 175 houses here that still need rebuilding -- the aim is to complete them this year. "Someone's got to help those people. That's what Yellow Boots is going to do," he said.
Courtesy of silive.com http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2014/01/volunteers_help_rebuild_sandy-.html