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Red Cross Continues To Help Hurricane Sandy Victims

Harold and Beville Harris

A Red Cross caseworker helped Harold and Beville Harris return to their home almost a year after floodwaters from Sandy inundated the property they built together more than 50 years ago.

This disaster put a hole in our hearts.

It’s been more than a year since Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast, leading to the largest American Red Cross disaster response in the United States in five years.

The Red Cross responded to Sandy immediately and continues even now to help people affected by the Hurricane, meeting with those in need, providing case management and financial assistance to help with security and utility deposits, home repairs and rent as well as linking them to available social service programs.

TOMS RIVER COUPLE RETURNS HOME Eleven months after they were forced out of their home by Hurricane Sandy, Harold and Beville Harris have moved back into their Toms River, New Jersey home. The recovery process hasn’t been easy for the couple who had two feet of lagoon water streaming through the one-story home they built together more than 50 years ago.

They had never had flooding of any kind but after Sandy everything needed to be gutted and rebuilt inside their home due to water damage and mold. Initially they had few resources and finding agencies that would assist with their recovery was daunting.

“This disaster put a hole in our hearts,” Harris said. The couple believes their recovery was put in good hands the day they met their Red Cross case worker. They qualified for the Move In Assistance Program (MIAP) and were soon on their way to picking out kitchen cabinets and other remodeling items to make the gutted house into their home again.

The Red Cross continues to check in with the couple to monitor their progress. The repairs are completed and the couple is back in their home where they recently celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary. Being back in their home for the anniversary milestone was important. “I wanted you to see what Red Cross did, how you helped, Mrs. Harris said.

REBUILDING LIVES The Red Cross knows that recovering from a disaster involves rebuilding not only homes, but lives as well and has awarded a $1 million grant to the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) to provide mental and community health services including crisis counseling, case management and outreach and follow-up community health and wellness calls to people in Brooklyn, the Rockaways, Staten Island and Nassau County recovering from Superstorm Sandy.

Funded by the Red Cross grant, VNSNY developed a Disaster Distress Response Program and hired seven licensed therapists and two social work assistants trained by the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“The goal of our program is for people affected by Sandy to see an improvement in their quality of life, increase their sense of hope and tap into their own resiliency and strengths,” said Kerry Symon, VNSNY program director.

Participants in the 10-week program meet weekly for an hour with a therapist who comes to their home or wherever they may be living temporarily. Week one is psychological education on the normal reactions to a disaster; week two is behavioral activation and relaxation techniques; week three is introduction to thoughts and feelings, and so on.

Melissa Martin, licensed therapist at VNSNY, said people respond well to the program because it teaches practical stress management techniques like breathing relaxation and cognitive restructuring, which helps people make connections between thoughts and feelings.

“It’s not your typical talk therapy. People learn true skills they can take with them when they’re done,” Martin said. “The counseling really helps people find a sense of normalcy.”

The program has had more than 200 referrals for people needing help and conducted more than 600 one-on-one counseling sessions.

In addition to individual care, VNSNY has reached more than 4,500 people through presentations to organizations, schools, clinics and public agencies about reactions to disaster and ways to cope with stress.

In the days and months after Sandy struck, trained Red Cross disaster mental health workers made more than 113,000 health and mental health contacts with people affected by the storm. In addition to the funding for VNSNY, the Red Cross has provided grants to FEGS Health & Human Services, Children’s Health Fund and other groups offering mental health services to people affected by Sandy.

MASSIVE RESPONSE The Red Cross launched relief operations in 12 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to help people affected by Sandy. More than 17,000 trained Red Cross disaster workers – 90 percent of them volunteers – were deployed from all over the country to help people affected by the devastating storm. The response included:

  • Serving more than 17.5 million meals and snacks in a huge feeding operation.
  • Handing out more than 7 million relief items such as cold weather items and clean-up supplies.
  • Providing nearly 113,000 health services and emotional support contacts for people who have been living in very tough conditions.
  • Providing 74,000 overall shelter stays for Sandy.
  • RECOVERY EFFORTS ONGOING The response and recovery from a storm of this size takes time and help from many organizations. For more than a year, the Red Cross has worked together with government and community partners at every step to provide assistance to those that need it most. In addition, the Red Cross has given $60 million in grants to a number of nonprofits working in New Jersey and New York to help people with home repairs, mold remediation, food, financial assistance and financial counseling, and to support the work of community roundtables to help address unmet needs.

    THANK YOU The work of the Red Cross is possible because of the compassion and generosity of the American public, and the Red Cross already has spent or made commitments to spend $280 million, more than 90 percent of the $308 million donated for Sandy. The Red Cross expects to use the biggest share of the remaining money to help people with a range of housing-related expenses, support community resiliency programs and give more grants to community non-profit partners to help Sandy survivors.

    The one-year Hurricane Sandy report and other information on the Red Cross Sandy relief and recovery efforts can be found at

    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.