Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Saturday, June 29, 2013
Church fixes post-Sandy homes

Nearly eight months after Hurricane Sandy hit the Jersey Shore, thousands of homeowners still are awaiting repairs.

On June 22, eight members of Peace Covenant Presbyterian Church traveled there to help. The group was inspired by their trip last year to Haiti, where they helped with lingering devastation from the 2010 earthquake.

"We're doing cleanups, demolition and house renovations," Pastor Larry Schenk said of the New Jersey trip.

"We've been through hurricanes, so we understand what people are going through."

The volunteers were working on two homes, paying for their own meals, and had a place to sleep thanks to Forked River Presbyterian Church.

"We put a lot of emphasis on putting beliefs into action," said Schenk.

It is very much needed, said homeowner Barbara Ewald of Lavallette, N.J.

"I'm so thankful we met this wonderful group of people -- we didn't have flood insurance, and everything for repairs is out of pocket," she said.

"People had to spend $100,000 in fixes and modifications, and we couldn't afford that while putting our kids through college."

Her home had to be completely gutted -- walls and ceilings were covered with mold, the furniture was ruined, and all the appliances had to be replaced, Ewald said.

Volunteer Carol Hubbell gave a status update.

"We have been finishing sheetrock, sanding, priming, and hanging doors," she said. "Tomorrow we put the moldings back on and start framing the kitchen."

Volunteer Niels Hubbell, who spent six months preparing for the trip, said the local government wasn't prepared for a storm like Sandy.

"The response has been good, but a little chaotic at first because of all the red tape," said Hubbell.

"There is no system for storms like there is in the Keys."

While Ewald's house was repairable, most homes were not.

"Buildings are being taken down left and right," Ewald said. "We had 18 inches (of water), but neighbors down the street got 5 feet of water in their homes."

The late October hurricane, with a 820-mile diameter, cost $25 billion in lost business and left in its wake 8.1 million homes without power, according to nation.time.com, Time Magazine's website.

It also created a stronger sense of community, though.

"Out of this disaster I met a lot of fantastic, nice people," said Ewald.

The volunteers won't be putting their hammers away after this project; church members plan on returning next year.

For more information, call 305-294-1223 or visit peacecovenantpckw.com.

apress@keysnews.com

Citizen intern Alex Press is a recent graduate of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

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