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100 Days Later: Red Cross Helping Sandy Survivors Recover

nj hurricane sandy victims
“This help means a whole lot for me and my family.”

Superstorm Sandy’s devastation 100 days ago damaged and destroyed homes and uprooted a number of New Jersey families from their homes and neighborhoods, and the American Red Cross will be there for many on what will be a long road to recovery.

A big part of the Red Cross recovery effort will be working one-on-one with families who need some extra help making recovery plans and accessing available resources. Some need help finding child care, or understanding insurance paperwork. Red Cross caseworkers will help guide them through the recovery process.

Since Sandy struck in late October, the Red Cross has given out millions of meals and snacks, provided shelter and offered emotional support to families in need. Behind these large numbers are individuals who are trying to recover and rebuild their lives.

Escape to Higher Ground

Listening to Deborah Boling’s tale, one might be amazed by her resiliency and positive outlook.

Boling is grateful her daughter and 2-year-old granddaughter rode out Hurricane Sandy at a friend’s house and were not home in their South Amboy, NJ, apartment. Her son came to keep her company during the storm, but Boling wasn’t too concerned.

“I figured it would be like Hurricane Irene last year. Intense winds and a lot of rain, maybe a little bit of flooding in the basement. But no worries since I’m up on the second floor, right?”

But as Sandy’s intensity increased, so did Boling’s concerns that she and her son would need to get to higher ground quickly.

“At one point I looked out the back window and saw waves in the yard. Waves!” she exclaimed. “I was horrified. I can’t swim, and I’m afraid of water.”

Gripping hands tightly, the pair made their way outside, scaled the wall of the building through at least 3 feet of water, and walked a few blocks to the car waiting to take them to a friend’s home in Carteret.

Two days later, they learned their building had been damaged and was now uninhabitable.

Steady Steps Toward Recovery

Living on a fixed income, the search for a new apartment she could afford became very difficult for Boling, who, if times weren’t challenging already, suffers with pancreatic cancer.

Boling, her daughter and granddaughter have been staying at a hotel thanks to FEMA’s Temporary Shelter Assistance (TSA) program. When the Red Cross came to see her, Boling immediately recognized volunteer Sara Lanier, and a tight hug soon followed.

The two have worked closely together and have developed a unique bond. Lanier has been Boling’s caseworker, learning what Red Cross assistance might be needed to help this family move out of the TSA hotel and into more permanent housing. In Boling’s case, it was help with the security deposit for the apartment she found that was within her budget.

Boling recalls how she broke down in tears when Lanier handed her the check from the Red Cross that, in essence, represented her ability to take that next step toward recovery from Sandy.

“I couldn’t stop crying and hugging Sara,” she said. “This help means a whole lot for me and my family. And knowing it came from donations—from people wanting to help us here,” Deborah said, beginning to choke up.

Lanier adds, “I cried too. It’s so good to know the Red Cross work I’m doing here will have such an effect on this incredible woman, her daughter and little granddaughter. It’s exactly what I came here to do.”

The Red Cross Role in the Recovery

The Red Cross is working closely with government partners on long-term recovery efforts, and the first part of this work is already underway. At the request of the federal government, the Red Cross is focusing its initial recovery assistance on an estimated 9,000 families whose houses were heavily damaged or destroyed. The Red Cross is providing resources to either repair their homes or help them move into longer-term housing.

For the next several months, a big part of the Red Cross recovery effort will be working one-on-one with families who need some extra help making recovery plans and accessing available resources. Some need help finding child care, or understanding insurance paperwork. Red Cross case workers will help guide them through the recovery process.

The Red Cross is also supporting the work of several other relief groups, such as helping to fund several local food banks in New York to boost their capacity to serve more meals and help ensure people who need food have access to it, as well as support for Operation Hope’s work to provide assistance and financial counseling to survivors.

As of January 31, the Red Cross had spent or made commitments to spend an estimated $145 million, more than half the total raised for Sandy. The remaining Sandy donations will be used to help individuals and communities affected by this storm with their long-term needs.

You can read a three-month update on the Red Cross response to Sandy, as well as get more information on Red Cross emergency relief and recovery for this disaster, at www.redcross.org/sandy-response.

See more photos at: Flickr – Red Cross North Jersey – Superstorm Sandy