Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rehab of Homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy continues in Port Monmouth, NJ

On 10/04/13, six members of the District 14-E Lions Club headquartered in Westmoreland County traveled to Port Monmouth, NJ in their Lions "Care-A-Van" to work with the Christiana Lions for the day on 10/5/2013.

 We focused on David and Donna's home that was damaged during the Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

They raised their house 9' feet to get it above future flood levels and added a basement.

Our goal was to finish up the odds and ends inside the house prior to inspections and clean up material removed from the damaged house and piled up in the backyard.

After approvals are received, the next wave of volunteers will install the insulation and drywall.

The volunteers from Westmoreland and Lancaster County Lions Clubs thank Bill Bechtold, local 
Lions co-ordinator in New Jersey, for a fine meal at the end of the day.

There are many more families in the NY / NJ region that are still trying to recover from the damage Hurricane Sandy did to their homes.  If you are interested in lending a hand, you can contact Jim Groff with the Christiana Chapter at 610.636.2612 or lionsalertteam@comcast.net for more information.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Daycare finished and ready to go

Hi everyone,

On March 30th, the Christiana Chapter of the Lions Club International and entourage descended on Rockaway, NY to furnish the daycare that was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012.

Arrangements were made by the Little Neck / Douglaston Chapter of the Lions Club to send the daycare owners, Roan and Stacey, into New York City for two days, on March 29th and 30th for a much needed break.

While they were gone, cleaning crews came in to give the facility a good final scrub down, the Christiana Lions arrived with a trailer load of children chairs, rocking chairs, desk chair, book shelves, books, toys, cribs, mattresses, etc. The Little Neck / Douglaston Lions donated a microwave, filing cabinets, desk, tables and chairs.

The Christiana Lions Club bought a stove and refrigerator with money donated by various organizations, churches and individuals which were dropped shipped to the daycare on the 30th.

Everything needed to get the daycare up and running again was set up in time for Roan and Stacey's return from their visit to NYC.  Even a TV crew was there to film Stacey's reaction as she received the surprise of her life!

Six months ago, Roan and Stacey were devastated with the destruction Sandy brought to their lives.  On March 30th, after many months of hard work and untiring efforts of Lions Club chapters and others, hope was restored again.  Dozens of strangers from several states coming together for one common purpose, to lift up a hurting family and assist them to recover from such a great loss.  At the end of the day, there were no strangers in the daycare, but friends for life.

There are many more families in the NY / NJ region that are still trying to recover from the damage Sandy did to their homes.  If you are interested in lending a hand, you can contact Jim Groff with the Christiana Chapter at 610.636.2612 or lionsalertteam@comcast.net for more information.

Building the Deck for Patty in Breezy Point

May 5, 2013

On 4/27/13, I traveled with the Christiana Chapter of the Lions Club International to Breezy Point, NY to work on a home damaged during Hurricane Sandy.  This is the town that became the poster child for the damage caused by the storm, losing over 80 homes to fire during the storm.

Patty is the owner of the home we were to work on.  She has a physical handicap and was struggling to make ends meet prior to the storm. To supplement her income, she collects recyclables with her wagon.  She walks around the town picking up cans and bottles, returns to the house to sort, package and turns the cans and bottles in for income.  People even drop off bottles and cans at her home to help her out.

Her deck and roof was damaged by Sandy.  This was a big blow to her.  She was referred to us as someone who was truly in need and could use some help in getting back on her feet.

Patty is one of those people that just knows everybody.  Every time we met with her to discuss what she needed and to work out the details, it seemed each passer by, whether in a car, walking or riding bike, would yell "Hey Patty" and she would wave, give a big smile and a "Hey" back.  She's one of those people you meet for the first time and you feel as if you were friends for years.

So Friday night, Jim Groff, Rick Groff and I traveled to Brooklyn to spend the night at the Immanuel House.  This facility is owned and operated by "Life in Messiah", a Christian organization ministering to the Jews in the Brooklyn neighborhood.  This was the first overnight stay for us on these trips to the New York / New Jersey region.  The house keepers very graciously opened their doors to let us in at 11:30 pm.  By doing this, we were able to get an early start the next morning.  It is still difficult to find housing for volunteers that come from outside the region to work.  For the Christiana group, that means 3 hours on the road one way, and about $150.00 in tolls and gas with each trip.  To date, they have been making daily trips each weekend because of the housing issue.  Hopefully, the housing issue can be resolved soon.

The Christiana Lions previously sent a crew to repair her roof.  The task on Saturday was to build 23 concrete piers where the block piers were. This required removing the existing block not required, laying out the new piers, excavating, cutting the sonotubes to length, and pouring 4 yards of ready mix concrete into the sonotubes.  The ready mix plant closed at 12:00 noon, so we needed to be ready for the Ready Mix truck by then.

When we started, I was doubtful that the three of us and Charlie from the Little Neck / Douglaston Chapter of the Lions Club could actually pull this off.

At 10:30, Jim said he needed to release the concrete truck and asked if we felt we would be ready to receive the truck by noon.  With only half of the piers completed, we swallowed hard and agreed to go for it.

It was about this time, people just started showing up, asking what they could do to help.  Jim, the Executive Director for New York Habitat for Humanity and a couple of his crew, stopped by to help.  Roan and his father Wesley came to pitch in and were a huge help.  We previously helped Roan restore his wife's daycare facility that was destroyed in the storm.

It turned out the truck was a little late, the work crew grew larger and it all came together.  Strangers working together for the first time, doing what they could to help Patty get back on her feet.

At the end of the day, the piers were completed.  We're now ready for the Amish crew from Lancaster County and a work group from Calvary Church in Lancaster, PA to come on May 9th to install the deck.  We are expecting this to take one or two days.

There are many more families in the New York / New Jersey region that are still trying to recover from the damage to their homes caused by Hurricane Sandy.

If you are interested in lending a hand, you can contact Jim Groff from the Christiana Lions at 610.636.2612 or lionsalertteam@comcast.net for more information.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The conditions in New Jersey and New York on 3/16 - 3/17/13

Over the 3/16/13 weekend, I traveled to Union Beach, NJ and Rockaway, NY to help in the Hurricane Sandy recovery.  It is shocking to see how much still needs to be done.  It is also encouraging to see so many volunteers associated with churches, service organizations and just individuals giving of their time to help in the relief effort.  

I know the US Congress has issued billions of dollars to put towards helping this region to recover, but what I see and what I hear on the ground, is that money is not being funneled to the blue collar working families that have been so devastated by Hurricane Sandy.  It seems this money is mainly being used for the restoration of the businesses, boardwalk and beaches located along the shoreline.  

Demolition and construction permits are slow to be issued to the homeowners. 

I hear reports that FEMA has temporary housing trailers in storage within an hour drive of this region, however, they are not being delivered because this region has been deemed by FEMA to be a flood zone, therefore the trailers cannot be placed there.  This decision results in the displaced needing to find temporary housing, often costing them as much as $1,500 per month, in addition to their mortgage and taxes for the damaged home, plus the cost of restoration.  The insurance companies have not been the most friendly and are very slow to make their pay outs, if any, to the homeowners.

I hear reports that authorities are now expecting the home owners to remove the trash being generated from the restoration on their own or face fines.

Maybe the stories I hear are not correct, but what I see is a desperate people struggling to return to a normal life and the obstacles they face are almost insurmountable.

I know there are people trying to "game" the system, both contractors and homeowners.  But I also know, there are honest people involved who willingly volunteer their time to sort through the maze and help those who are truly in need.  I personally know families who are extremely grateful for all the volunteers who take the time from their busy schedules to reach out and to help them through this dark chapters of their lives.

Food distribution being made in Union Beach, NJ.  This tractor trailer came from the churches located  Nashville, TN area.


The following photos were taken in Breezy Point, NY.  This is where the fire occurred that destroyed over 80 homes.  FEMA and the homeowners co-op are very slow in their response to demolition and restoration applications that have been submitted.  The frustration level is very high in this community.

In the fore ground are the remaining foundations from the homes that caught fire during Hurricane Sandy.
In the distance is the last burnt out home being demolished.


The following photos show one of the houses to be targeted for restoration.

Charlie from the Rockaway Lions Club is discussing the restoration of the house with the homeowner. This is where she is living.  She is very active in helping those in her community and has put meeting her own needs on the back burner so she can help others.  She says there are other people in worst shape than she is!!

You can tell from the body language of these two that she is resisting the help and he is telling her to deal with it.  In spite of her kicking and screaming, her house is now in the queue for restoration.

Her bath room (no tub or shower) 

Where she sleeps.

She has accepted the fact that she will be receiving help. 

Her house is one of about a dozen the Christiana Lions Club will be working on. All that is needed are volunteers to show up and lend a hand.

If you are interested in joining in this effort, The Christiana Lions Club leaves from the Dutchway parking lot in Christiana, PA almost every Saturday and Sunday at 6:30 am. Please contact Jim Groff at 610.636.2612 for further information and details.

 Dale Groff 3/19/13

Update on the Daycare in Rockaway

On Sunday, 3/17/13, Jim Groff and I traveled to Rockaway, NY to continue working on the Daycare project. The focus of day was to finish the trim work around the doors.  As you can see in the photos, the property owner, with the help of his father, has made tremendous strides in continuing with the restoration of the facilities since our last trip.  The goal is to have this facility finished and ready for opening by 3/30/13.  See my previous blogs documenting where they were a month ago.

The daycare lost everything when Hurricane Sandy hit.  The word is being put out to the Lancaster County community that they need children's books, toys, furniture and supplies to restock the operation.  The Christiana Lions Club is coordinating this effort and is receiving these items at the Christiana Borough Building. The Lions will personally deliver them to Rockaway on 3/30/13.  If you have items for donation, please contact Jim Groff at 610.636.2612 to make arrangements.

The daycare owner, Roan, installed the kitchen cabinets.

Jim giving the "how to" instructions to Roan on how to measure, cut and install door trim.

During the past month, Roan and his father finished sanding the spackling, painted the walls and installed the Plexiglass in the office and infant room.

The next project is to clean up the outside.  On the other side of the house is where the play ground for the daycare is located.

This daycare is definitely located in an urban area.  This photo is taken from the front porch showing the subway station that takes daily commuters into NYC.  The landing pattern for JFK Airport is directly over this street with the jets flying very low overhead.

Dale Groff 3/19/13

Helping Bobbie

On Saturday, 3/16/13, I traveled to Union Beach, NJ with Steve Mann, David Cole and my brother, Jim Groff, to help Bobbi recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. We picked up where the previous volunteers left off, spending the day removing the existing kitchen cabinets, installing new ones, hooking up the sink and finish hanging the drywall in the dining room and bathroom.

We talked to her son, Guy, about his mother and her experiences during Hurricane Sandy and since.

He shared that his parents lived in their house for over 40 years.  During that time, there was one flood occurrence.  In that event the water rose to just above the first floor level getting the carpet wet.

In the early fall of 2012, his parents upgraded the house and put in a new kitchen.  They heard the weather forecast about a storm coming, but decided to remain at the house during the storm.  Their house is not located near the water and felt confident this storm would not effect them too seriously.

When Sandy came, the storm surge started to come in.  Guy drove to his parents to check up on them.  The roads were becoming flooded as he drove there.  By the time he arrived to their street, the water was over the truck hood.  He got out the truck and walked to their house.  By the time he got to the house, the water was up to his neck.  There was 2 feet of water in the house.  He found his parents on the second floor level.  In another hour, the water rose an additional 2 feet.  They had no choice but to ride out the storm and pray for the best outcome.  Emergency services at that time were not available for a rescue. They survived, but the house took a big hit.

After hearing Guy retell of their story, Bobbi shared that her husband died two weeks ago.  To say the least, she is hurting. We could see the look of despair in her eyes.

Since the storm, the St. John's United Methodist Church in Hazlet, NJ and the Lions Club of Middletown, NJ, met with Bobbi and her husband to determine if the house was damaged beyond repair.  After it was decided to rehabilitate the house, the church and Lions focused on raising what funds they could and started coordinating the volunteer work crews from multiple states to assist them in cleanup and the long process of rehabilitation.

The four of us felt honored to be able to contribute our small role in helping Bobbi get through this dark chapter in her life.

A beautiful porch being used for storage and work area.

Steve, with the help Glen from NJ, took charge in removing the old cabinets (which were installed just weeks prior to Sandy), installing the new ones and finally hooking up the sink.  

Dave and I hung drywall in the dining room and bathroom while Jim spackled and gave advice on "how-to" when issues came up.

This was what Bobbi's bathroom looked like when we arrived on site.....

......and when we left.  Another step towards getting Bobbi's life back to normal.

Dale Groff 3/19/13