In late October 2012, 900-mile-wide Superstorm Sandy came ashore near Atlantic City, N.J., having already pummeled Puerto Rico and an extensive swath of the East Coast. Sandy’s strong winds, torrential rains and flooding caused 117 deaths in the United States, including 53 in New York and 34 in New Jersey, and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.
The devastating storm brought widespread destruction and heartbreaking loss across New Jersey and New York, the two hardest-hit states, as well as to communities in
Connecticut, West Virginia and Maryland. And in its aftermath, millions of people turned to the Red Cross for help and hope in their darkest hours. Starting even before Sandy’s landfall, Red Cross staff and volunteers moved quickly to bring relief, opening shelters and then feeding sites that provided more than 74,000 overnight stays and more than 17 million meals and snacks.
Working from over 300 emergency response vehicles, Red Cross volunteers visited heavily damaged communities and neighborhoods, delivering food, blankets, health care, emotional support and critical relief supplies. And when the immediate needs of the response eventually receded, the Red Cross continued to help people recover, working with local governments and other nonprofits to ensure that Red Cross assistance was going where it was needed most.
Over the past two years, Red Cross caseworkers and volunteers have worked hand-in-hand with nonprofit and local government partners to meet ongoing challenges and needs—family by family, neighbor by neighbor. On Staten Island, the two-bedroom bungalow of John and Laura Auer was flooded. “When my husband and son dragged me out, the water was up to my chest,” Laura Auer said. “When it was all said and done, it was way over my head.”
The Auer family met Red Cross case manager Chris Losavio, who promised to keep working until the found the help they needed. “If it wasn’t for Chris, I would not be home.” Auer said.
The Red Cross, in partnership with the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and New York Disaster Interfaith Services, assisted the family both in making necessary repairs and in purchasing new furniture and appliances, enabling them to come home in June 2014. Losavio also organized co-workers from the Red Cross, who volunteered their own time to work with Tunnel to Towers to help with the repairs.
For the Auers, and the thousands of other families with uncovered housing expenses, the Red Cross Move-in Assistance Program has served as a vital bridge to relocate from hotels to sustainable housing or complete repairs on their Sandy-damaged homes. The Move-in Assistance Program, the largest of several Red Cross programs and grants that have provided tens of millions in financial assistance overall to Sandy survivors, has provided more than $32.2 million to more than 5,100 households, as of September 15, 2014.
A recovery effort of this scale is larger than any one organization, and the Red Cross has awarded grants totaling more than $91 million to dozens of nonprofits with specialized expertise and strong local ties. These grants have supported a network of skilled, community-based services that can best meet Sandy survivors’ needs for food, housing, financial help, mental health support and guidance.
The Red Cross has funded food banks in New York City, Long Island and New Jersey’s Ocean and Monmouth Counties, helping feed families experiencing hardships due to Sandy’s lingering impact. Another partner, Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), used an $800,000 grant to purchase building materials and sustain their volunteers, who completed repair and rebuilding work on homes from New York to Maryland and West Virginia. And in New York this September, hundreds of Red Cross volunteers joined dozens of recovery partner groups in a full-scale hurricane exercise, helping us collectively strengthen community resilience.
A grant to our nonprofit partner Rebuilding Together helped restore many Sandy-damaged homes, including that of Ed and Lisa Abbate of Little Ferry, N.J. When Sandy swept ashore, the Abbates heard a loud crack as the back door of their house gave way under the pressure of a sudden surge of water from the Hackensack River.
“It just started pouring in; it looked like Niagara Falls coming down the basement stairs,” Ed said.
More than five feet of water flooded the basement, destroying the home’s electrical panel, boiler and water heater. Their washer and dryer floated to the basement ceiling, and the storm’s intense winds ripped away gutters and roofing, leaving two inches of water standing on the first floor and badly damaging the walls, insulation and wiring.
Last April, Red Cross North Jersey Region staff and board members joined more than 200 Rebuilding Together volunteers to repair the Abbates’ home and other Sandy-damaged homes in Bergen County. “We appreciate all you have done and continue to do for us,” Lisa told the volunteers. The Red Cross has also provided $10 million to support a New Jersey program that helps low-to-moderate income families bridge the gap between federal reconstruction grants and their rebuilding costs.
All of these grants—made possible by generous donor support to the Red Cross—are helping families keep food on their tables, repair their homes and get services to support them on the long road to recovery.
Overall, the Red Cross has committed more than $14 million to unmet needs roundtables and long-term recovery groups in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut communities that experienced the greatest devastation from Sandy. Thanks to our donors, these groups will have the funds to continue helping affected communities with some of their most complex individual and family recovery needs.