Eleven months after the storm, streets are clear of debris and most of the dumpsters that were filled with saltwater-soaked furniture, appliances and ruined contents of homes are gone. But pod storage containers still sit on driveways as homeowners work on the interiors of their homes. One local refers to the sight as the “new normal.”
Freeport is among the many affected areas where volunteer teams are working in New York and New Jersey to help homeowners put their lives back together. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) is part of the effort.
Many residents like Barbara and Brian Hindley, who are in their 80s, didn’t expect the magnitude of the surge and rode out the storm. Residents continue to live in their flood- damaged homes, some with only partial power, while repairs are made.
“We watched the water coming up the stairs,” Barbara Hindley said. “We didn’t expect it. We sat in chairs with blankets in the dark and waited for the night to be over.”
SBDR teams from North Carolina and Maryland did a complete tear-out of the first floor, built new stairs and floors. The Hindleys continue to live upstairs amidst ongoing repairs.
“Historically, SBDR is good at response with almost 90,000 trained volunteers and 1,600 mobile units,” Caison said. Now, he said, “Our goal is to build a robust system of rebuild and recovery like Southern Baptists already have for disaster response.
“Recovery can take two, three or more years,” Caison said. “We’ve brought the help in the past and started the healing, and there’s been a lot of times where we’ve shared the Gospel so we’ve brought hope in unique places. But by going in now with the rebuild and the recovery aspects of things we can stay involved with that family sometimes for weeks or months.”
Robert Kennedy, mayor of the village of Freeport, said he’s thankful Southern Baptists and other groups are helping the community of 50,000 recover. Four thousand homes were damaged and 500 are still vacant. Sixty to 75 homes are tagged for demolition.
Sandy Rebuild project coordinator Bill Johnson said people from the affected area and beyond often ask him, “Why are you still here?” After the initial response and cleanup, most of the damage is now unseen and many think everything is OK, he said.
In Freeport, as in other coastal areas on Long Island’s south shore, the storm surge flooded every structure for almost one mile inland from the ocean. While the saltwater came in and went out within hours, it left plenty of destruction—corroding electrical boxes, HVAC units and plumbing systems.
“There are many, many homes that need repair and that’s what we are doing,” said Johnson, a volunteer from Grayson, Ky. Even with damaged materials torn out, many homeowners do not have the resources to do necessary repairs. In the rebuild phase, Johnson said SBDR will keep its main presence on Long Island but also will have a presence on Staten Island.
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