Blessing homes and lives impacted by Sandy

Blessing homes and lives impacted by Sandy
Photo by Joanna Gardner Yolanda Boyer, whose Ocean City home sustained heavy damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, speaks to the press in her renovated kitchen last week. Boyer was among the homeowners who reached out to Catholic Charities’ disaster case management program when they had nowhere left to turn.

Photo by Joanna Gardner
Yolanda Boyer, whose Ocean City home sustained heavy damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, speaks to the press in her renovated kitchen last week. Boyer was among the homeowners who reached out to Catholic Charities’ disaster case management program when they had nowhere left to turn.

It’s been nearly two and a half years since Hurricane Sandy made its devastating landfall on the coast of New Jersey in October 2012. But for many families in southern New Jersey, the impact of the storm is still remembered daily.

For three families in Ocean City last week at a house blessing ceremony commemorating their return to repaired homes, those memories still brought tears, but also joy mixed with the pain.

“It’s a very emotional time,” said Rohan Allen, the Catholic Charities case manager for all three families. “The ceremony helps give them some closure.”

Kenneth Thompson, Yolanda Boyer and Gloria Legette live within a few blocks of each other on the island in a particularly low-lying area ravaged by flooding during Sandy.

Each of their homes sustained heavy wind and water damage and became unlivable after the storm, but every family’s story had its own twists.

Boyer had received FEMA aid but unknowingly hired an unscrupulous contractor. The repairs had to be entirely redone, but her FEMA aid had been exhausted. Thompson was homeless for several days after the storm when water flooded his first floor up to his chest. Legette attempted repairs on her own, but her home was riddled with mold a year after the storm and she became seriously ill.

“Every day I walk around in this house and I just thank my God,” Legette said. Her symptoms have since subsided.

All three homeowners reached out to Catholic Charities’ disaster case management program when they had nowhere left to turn. As case manager for each of the cases, Allen advocated for the families to funding sources and partners, helping them secure the resources necessary to rebuild their homes and lives.

A Future With Hope, Inc., a ministry of the United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey, agreed to do the reconstruction work on all three of the homes. The group brings in skilled volunteers from all over the country to repair homes damaged by Sandy.

Local Philadelphia news station CBS3 and journalists from several local newspapers attended the ceremony, along with staff and volunteers from A Future With Hope and Catholic Charities.

During the house blessing, the group moved from living room to living room of the three houses. Rev. Lou Strugala of A Future With Hope led the group in prayer, reading from Scripture, leading the Our Father, and inviting all present to raise a hand in blessing over the homes.

“Eternal God, bless this home. Let your love rest upon it and your promised presence be manifested in it,” Strugala prayed in Legette’s living room.

Since its launch in the summer of 2013, Catholic Charities’ Disaster Case Management Program has assisted over 1,000 families throughout the six southern New Jersey counties within the Diocese of Camden. The program currently has 200 open cases, according to Melissa Hruska, the program’s director.

For more information and to find help through Catholic Charities’ program, call the New Jersey services hotline 2-1-1 or visit us online at www.CatholicCharitiesCamden.org/HurricaneSandyRecovery.

Catholic Charities is supported by the House of Charity — Bishop’s Annual Appeal.

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