Story: Red Cross Helps Sandy-Displaced Long Island Family Start New Life

After being helped by the American Red Cross, people displaced by Superstorm Sandy are excited and thankful to move back into a permanent home. For some families however, the home they’re excited about moving into is more than 1,000 miles away.

James and Jeri-Ann Henson were homeowners in Island Park, a small village on Long Island with fewer than 4,700 residents.

Jeri-Ann’s father and mother built the three-bedroom house five decades ago and raised six children there.

“This is the only home I’ve ever known,” Jeri-Ann said.

After her father passed away several years ago, she and her husband lived in the home to try to save money. The couple’s goal was to save enough to move to rural Missouri to take care of James’ mother, a widow.

“In seven hurricanes in 50 years of my family owning the house, we never so much as got water in the yard,” Henson said. “So we really weren’t expecting anything.”

Jeri-Ann works at a group home for women with developmental disabilities in nearby Westbury, New York. She was mandated to work the day Sandy made landfall and wasn’t able to return home for three days.

She was shocked at what she saw.

“We had three feet of water so we lost a lot,” she said. “We had no flood insurance or homeowners insurance.”

For six months after the storm, Jeri-Ann’s employer allowed her and James to live in a spare room in the group home where she worked as they tried to piece their lives back together.

The two soon concluded it was time to move to Missouri to be with James’ mother.

“That was the plan before Sandy hit,” Jeri-Ann said. “The storm gave us a huge jump start.”

Now the couple was faced with the challenge of how to afford the move, which they learned could cost up to $7,000.

At a Sandy relief therapy group that met Thursday evenings, the Hensons learned the Red Cross might be able to assist them as part of the Red Cross Move-In Assistance Program.

The program works with families displaced by Sandy to move them back into sustainable housing. Eligible, Sandy-affected residents may receive up to $10,000 for expenses, including home repairs, rent, security deposit, moving costs, brokerage fees, temporary housing/or furniture and appliances and more.

The Hensons applied to the Red Cross for help. They were relieved and happy to obtain the moving assistance they needed.

“If we would have had to pay for the move, we never would have been able to,” Jeri-Ann said. “We would have been further in debt.”

Now living in Rolla, Missouri, with James’ mother, Jeri-Ann and James are appreciative of Red Cross donors who made it possible for the family to receive help. Jeri-Ann said she has donated to the Red Cross in the past and is thankful the organization was there for her.

“It’s just been a blessing,” she said.

 Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy

Story by Jamie Dierking

Photos credit: Jeri-Ann Henson

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