Story: Volunteers Help Repair Sandy-Damaged Home in Coney Island

This story is written by Red Cross worker Jamie Dierking.

Every day, the power of partnerships and people has resulted in progress for those affected by Superstorm Sandy. On Jan. 11, 2014, volunteers from the American Red Cross teamed with Rebuilding Together NYC to help repair the home of Rocco Brescia of Coney Island.

“These people are giving up their time, spending the day here,” Brescia, 59, said. “I don’t know what to say to them. It means a lot to know that people are helping and that people care.”

This summer, the Red Cross awarded a $2.25 million grant to Rebuilding Together to help bring nearly 90 homes devastated by Sandy back to safe and healthy housing conditions. With the help of this Red Cross funding, local affiliates of Rebuilding Together and volunteers in New York City, Long Island, Bergen County and Jersey City are providing free critical home repairs in many of the areas affected by Sandy.

Repairs to homes include electrical and plumbing, flooring, drywall, painting, basement and exterior rehabilitation. People eligible for such repairs include low-income families, senior citizens, persons with disabilities and veterans.

“We’re so thankful for the partnership with the American Red Cross,” said Emily Bachman, volunteer and special projects coordinator, Rebuilding Together NYC. “The Red Cross has been so helpful making projects like this happen, both with funding and with volunteers. We couldn’t do it without partnerships like this.”

Brescia is the original homeowner of his Coney Island townhome located less than two blocks from the ocean. He moved in nearly 30 years ago. On Oct. 29, 2012, Sandy made landfall and forced him out.

“Everything was destroyed,” Brescia said. “I have a four-foot crawlspace plus six feet of water on the first floor, so you’re talking 10 feet of water.”

Today, he is living in a rented apartment nearby, but he hopes to soon be back in his home. “Rebuilding Together put in hardwood floors, put in my bathroom, they painted for me and now they’re doing the final touches and just trying to help me get back in.”

Volunteers helping Rebuilding Together on Jan. 11 included students who are part of the Red Cross Club at Hunter College. “This is my community and I really felt like I’d be giving back,” said Farwa Ilyas, a junior majoring in psychology and chemistry. “The joy you see in the faces of other people when you help them motivates me.”

Work that volunteers completed included painting the molding and baseboards, caulking, installing hardware, and assembling furniture. Brescia also received funding for furniture, appliances and other home repairs through the Red Cross Move-In Assistance Program.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Brescia said. “I don’t know you guys, but you guys have come into my life to help me. That means a lot and I’m thankful.”

 

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