Written by Amber Bierfreund
A reluctant Marisol Tapia, of Ventnor, New Jersey, walked into the American Red Cross service delivery site in Bader Field, on November 30th – almost a month after Sandy left her and her four children without a place to call home. “I know other people have it worse,” said Tapia. “I am just thankful that we are all safe.”
Despite her hesitance to ask for help, situations like hers are exactly why we are here. She found her home submerged under four feet of water and it has since been completely gutted. After moving from shelter to shelter, the family of five is temporarily living in a hotel and continues to look for a permanent home – for many, a seemingly impossible task. “It’s important that my kids remain in their school,” said Tapia. Having a hearing impaired son makes that even more of a priority. “He’s made so much progress with his teachers. I would hate for him to start over somewhere else.”
The center was opened to assist people still struggling to find a way back to their normal life. The storm caused disruptions with everything from housing and furniture, to transportation and employment.
Starting over is never easy but she and her family have stayed in good spirits. After a constant string of medical complications following a near death experience, Tapia has learned to appreciate the important things in life. “It’s just stuff. It will take a long time to replace but I’m alive, my kids are alive. That’s all that really matters.”
Donna Pinknowski, a Red Cross caseworker from Milton, Pennsylvania, was assigned to her case. “The more we spoke with her, the more she opened up. It was absolutely heartbreaking,” said Pinknowski. “The family deserved some sense of normalcy.”
After learning her needs, Red Cross caseworkers offered referrals, as well as household and medical supplies, to help her on her way to recovery. “Anything we had to give, she got it,” said Kathy Dwyer, a caseworker from Tampa, Florida.
“This is a case that will be forever embedded in my memory and my heart. It is why I am a Red Crosser.”