Gerald and Barbara Bergman have lived in their Freeport, N.Y., home for the last 36 years, easily weathering every hurricane that affected New York. Then came Sandy. But they didn’t face the storm alone: the American Red Cross was there to help.
The Bergmans’ split-level co-op is only about 20 feet from a canal that connects to nearby Baldwin Bay. The water normally provides a relaxing atmosphere for the retired couple. However, that relaxing atmosphere turned stressful the night of October 29, 2012, when Superstorm Sandy pushed water from the bay into their home destroying their wood flooring and parts of their kitchen.
The Bergmans had evacuated inland to a friend’s home in Franklin Square, Long Island, prior to Sandy making landfall.
“We came back and saw the floorboard had buckled and there was a lot of mess on the floor,” Barbara, 70, said.
Sandy had also caused a power outage in their area. “We had no electricity, no hot water, no gas, nothing,” Gerald, 84, said.
“Night after night we would listen to CBS radio with a batch of candles we had bought,” he said. “Every morning we would go to Dunkin Donuts to charge up our phones.”
The two stayed in their home for the first two weeks after Sandy hit. When the weather turned colder, they decided to head for warmer temperatures, staying with relatives in California.
While they were away, movers delicately wrapped all their possessions and moved everything into portable storage units in the parking lot. Contractors then began removing the damaged flooring and part of the sheetrock that had also been damaged by the influx of water.
After five weeks with family, the Bergmans returned to Long Island and stayed in a hotel paid for by FEMA.
“While we were at the hotel, there was a meeting conducted by several agencies and one of your Red Cross ladies was fabulous in helping out fill out forms to get FEMA assistance,” Gerald said. “She was wonderful.”
Red Cross Case Manager Patty Jones began helping Gerald and Barbara.
“She assured me and called regularly,” Barbara said. “I knew the Red Cross was with us and that whatever needed to be done would be done.”
Through the Red Cross Sandy Move-In Assistance Program, the Bergmans were provided funding to pay for storage of their furniture and belongings while repair work was being done. The Red Cross also provided money to replace small appliances and kitchen items damaged by the storm.
“That was wonderful because we were able to use that to buy the necessities,” Gerald said. “For the first time, we were relaxed.”
Today, the Bergmans are once again enjoying the serene atmosphere of living near the water. They are grateful to the Red Cross for helping them return home.
“From our first experience with the Red Cross with the woman in the hotel to our experience with other workers, we have had a great relationship and a positive response,” Gerald said. “Red Cross has been absolutely fantastic.”
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 redcross.org/li or visit us on Twitter at @LIRedCross.