These past five months have been challenging for Mirna Chavez and her two children. Last October, the family was forced to flee their Little Ferry apartment as Superstorm Sandy caused the Hackensack River to inundate their neighborhood.
On the night of the storm, Mirna’s 19-year-old son Kevin encouraged his mom and little sister Karen to get in the car quickly to go stay with friends an hour’s drive out of town.
“I wanted them to get on the road before we were all stuck,” says Kevin. “I assured my mom I’d be okay and that I’d take care of moving whatever items I could upstairs to my cousin’s place.”
And so he did, making as many trips as possible; however the water was rising quickly, coming into the home quicker and higher than Kevin had ever witnessed.
“I did start to feel a bit panicked once we couldn’t go downstairs any longer,” says Kevin. “The power was out and we’d shine the flashlight on the stairway every so often and the water just kept creeping higher. The wind gusts were brutal, but I wasn’t scared,” he says, adding, “Well, maybe a little.”
When asked if she was scared during the storm, 9-year-old Karen’s spunky reply was, “No, not at all.” But when her brother steps out of the room, she whispers that she was scared a little bit for him.
Even with Kevin’s valiant efforts, many of the family’s belongings, along with the apartment, were destroyed.
With relatives in the area also heavily affected by the storm and no place to stay, the family turned to FEMA’s Temporary Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program and were grateful for the roof over their heads and warm beds in the Secaucus hotel room they were placed.
With both children currently enrolled in the local schools, Mirna felt it was important to do her best to find another home in Little Ferry. But the family’s challenge became finding an apartment they could afford.
“The woman from the Red Cross called nearly every day, working with us to find a place to live,” says Mirna. “She was so nice and very helpful.”
The Red Cross connected the family with a rental agency which helped locate an apartment that fit the family’s budget. Red Cross rental assistance helped bridge the gap with the funds the family needed prior to moving in.
Assistance from the Red Cross to purchase furnishings such as beds, appliances and other household goods helped make this new apartment a home.
“We want to thank the Red Cross for all its help,” says Mirna. “And bless all the people who donated to help us.”
“I like it here,” says young Karen. “But I’m scared the floods may come back.”
The Red Cross Role in the Recovery
More than five months after Sandy’s landfall, the American Red Cross continues to help people affected by the storm in New Jersey and New York, putting donated dollars to good use supporting long-term recovery efforts. We will continue to be there as Sandy survivors and communities look to recover and rebuild.
The Red Cross is working closely with government partners on long-term recovery efforts. 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.
A big part of our recovery efforts is working one-on-one with people, and trained Red Cross workers are helping people get assistance with home repairs, rent, utility deposits, and connecting them with social service programs.
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 supporting Operation Hope’s work to provide assistance and financial counseling to survivors.
The Red Cross had spent or made commitments to spend an estimated $145 million, 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.