The north end of the barrier reef islands in New Jersey, where Janet Connotillo lived with her husband and elderly mother, was underwater for five days following Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
“All people wanted to do was just get back to their homes, not realizing the journey ahead,” Connotillo said.
Forced to move to a rental due to the damage to her home, Connotillo was so grateful for the support of the American Red Cross.
“They were the first ones to call me and ask what I needed,” she said. Connotillo faced the overwhelming task of gutting her water-damaged home and getting set up in a rental, all while caring for her 90-year-old mother. It was a relief when the Red Cross sent her money to replace the items which had been damaged in the storm - toasters, coffee makers, day-to-day items. But, stuck in a rental, Connotillo called the Red Cross and told them what she really needed to buy was wood, drywall, and a new front door for her damaged home in Brigantine. She will never forget the kind Red Cross workers who told her they understood and would be there to assist her as she recovered from the devastation caused by Sandy. “The money I received initially from the Red Cross was what helped me start to rebuild my home,” Connotillo said.
After a few months, she was back in her home, but not for long unfortunately. They discovered the water table had risen so high it had damaged the home’s electrical systems and the new heaters which had just been installed had stopped working and so she found herself back in a rental and unsure where to turn. The family began to feel helpless, as debt for the repairs racked up and they were again displaced from their home.
“Lo and behold someone from the Red Cross called and said let me reevaluate your case and it was like an angel appeared,” Connotillo said. “The Red Cross came through to relieve some of our debt and allow us to move forward with our house.”
Although it’s been a long journey, the Connotillos are immensely thankful to the Red Cross for their support in the many steps along the way.
“The Red Cross realizes the aftermath doesn’t just stop when you write a check,” she said. “They stay with you until you are fully recovered.”