The Legacy Center (TLC) has been dispatching supplies to areas affected by the storm since October 30, but after securing a grant from Hand of Hope, a not-for-profit arm of the Joyce Meyer Ministries, the group’s first home restoration began in Breezy Point on January 19.
Recipient Sally Schaberick, an elderly wheelchair-bound woman suffering from multiple sclerosis, refused to abandon her cats and ignored evacuation orders and pleas from relatives to leave her house.
After Sandy hit, she was left sitting in chest-high water for three days, surviving on Halloween candy until her nephew was able to leave New Jersey and bring her to his home.
"It's just a constant storm, because they're not back home,” said TLC Executive Director Jordan Durso. “They're not where they used to be, so to be able to do that for somebody and the few families that we will be able to do that for, just means everything to The Legacy Center and to me personally,"
Roughly 150 pairs of hands helped rebuild Schaberick’s home.
Knowing that Schaberick, who was widowed 14 years ago, loves looking out her window and gardening, the team placed a chair by her window, beautified her garden with potted plants, and saved and signed a piece of metal from the original boiler that bore a portion of a mailing envelope with her husband's letterhead on it.
They repaired and maintained the integrity of a wooden wheelchair ramp built by the local volunteer fire department, where Schaberick and her husband volunteered for many years.
TLC’s volunteers expressed their thoughts on helping people like Schaberick and others.
"It's priceless to see someone who has nothing and then you just offer them a hand," said Jason Ayale.
"It's very difficult for Sally to move around, and one of my closest friends actually lived practically her entire life in a wheelchair," said volunteer Jacueline Acosta. "I just thought about them, and how it could've happened to them had they lived in an area like Breezy Point."
On Saturday, February 23, TLC unveiled the fully renovated and furnished home and presented Schaberick with a new scooter and a motorized wheelchair. Still traumatized by her experience, Schaberick was also overwhelmed by returning to a home different than the one she grew accustomed to over 50 years.
"I am very happy about what you did for somebody, but I don't think it's going to be for me," said an emotional Schaberick. "I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am for what you did, whether I stay here or not, and I really don't know what I'm going to do."
Living with her cats in The Chelsea at Bald Eagle, an assisted living home in New Jersey, Schaberick might consider going home in the summer when friends return to the neighborhood.
TLC is understanding of Schaberick's reaction, especially having met with her in New Jersey prior to the unveiling and hearing details of her story and her apprehension to return.
"We knew that it would be difficult, and that it would take her some time," said Diana Denis, TLC's Operations Director. "We just wanted her to know that if she was going to come home, it was going to be safe for her and that it was going to be clean and beautiful."
There are four more work orders in place for homes in Breezy Point, Long Beach and Howard Beach, and there is potential to makeover a total of 10 to 15 homes, according to Denis.
Christ Tabernacle will host a concert with Christian music group Katinas on Saturday, March 9, and all proceeds will go to continued relief efforts.
The second home renovation began in Breezy Point on Monday, February 25, and TLC is really excited about helping a woman who knows her home will be made livable but, like Sally, doesn’t know it will be a complete renovation.
"She is just amazing and vibrant and so sweet," said Denis. "We just know she's going to love her new place."