Moonachie volunteer First Aid and Rescue Squad Captain Frank Smith and his wife and fellow squad member Debi are used to answering the call for help, but after Superstorm Sandy caused major damage to their Little Ferry home, the couple found themselves in need of assistance.
Frank was returning home from his day job in Teterboro as Sandy’s fierce winds began to whip through northern New Jersey. As he neared his home, the storm had taken a turn for the worse and the streets began to fill with water. Frank could feel the water push his truck as he made his way through the flooded roadways.
Fearing his home may not be safe for his wife and their three young children, Frank grabbed formula, diapers and other essential items and the family headed to Moonachie First Aid and Rescue Squad’s command post. The family weathered the storm at the command post, as Frank headed back out into the storm with the First Aid and Rescue Squad responding to emergencies in their community.
“It was a crazy, wild night,” Frank recalled. “It looked like something out of a movie, but it was very real. It still feels like it was yesterday.”
When the storm passed the Smith family returned home to find the ground level of their home flooded with nearly five feet of water, destroying their eldest son’s bedroom, Debi’s office and countless family mementos.
Sifting through the waterlogged remains of keepsakes they once cherished was a heartbreaking task for the couple.
“As we went through the damage, we would find photo albums – baby photos, wedding photos – and vacation videos, but we knew they were beyond repair and couldn’t be saved,” said Frank. “Our whole life was on our front lawn, soaking wet.”
While so many of the Smith’s sentimental items could not be salvaged, with the help of Rebuilding Together and the American Red Cross, the family is receiving assistance to help repair their home.
“It sounded too good to be true,” Frank said, “but the next thing you know people are here, ripping the damage out and making repairs.”
The Red Cross provided a $2.25 million Sandy Recovery Grant to Rebuilding Together to repair and rebuild Sandy-damaged homes in New Jersey and New York. The grant is helping Rebuilding Together Bergen County bring at least 30 homes flooded by Sandy, including the Smith family’s, back to safe and healthy housing conditions.
During a recent rebuilding day at the family’s home, Frank put on a Rebuilding Together t-shirt and joined the team of volunteers as they continued to work to restore his home.
“Having Rebuilding Together here is great,” said Frank. “The volunteers, they’re amazing people. They come into the community and donate their time for people they don’t know. They’re good people and I can’t thank them enough. We never thought we would see a light at the end of the tunnel, but we are getting there.”
The Red Cross continues to work with nonprofit partners to help people and communities rebuild and recover from the damage and devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy. As of September 25, 2014 the Red Cross has awarded $91.4 million in grant funding to a range of organizations for services that provide vital assistance to individuals and families in need after the storm. View the list of Sandy Long-Term Recovery Grants.
Debi and Frank are grateful for the support of those who donated to help families like theirs recover from the impact of Sandy.
“God bless them all,” Frank said of the donors. “They are making a difference. All you need to do is see our home and our children to know they are making an impact on people’s lives.”
Thanks to the generosity of many, the Red Cross received $311.5 million in donations for Sandy emergency relief and recovery efforts. The Red Cross has spent or committed to spend $310 million, more than 99 percent of these donations, as of August 31, 2014. Red Cross staff and partner groups that the Red Cross has funded continue to work to ensure the availability of case management, housing rebuild and repair assistance, and financial support for those impacted by Sandy with ongoing needs.
Read the Superstorm Sandy Two-Year Update.