Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Victims of Sandy Count on 'Angels'

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Victims of Sandy Count on 'Angels'

Article excerpt

MOONACHIE -- Edison Gomez remembers well the first day he returned home to his flooded two-bedroom mobile home and saw the destruction left by superstorm Sandy - warped floors, a water- soaked sofa and beds and weltered walls beginning to mold.

Gomez also recalls the friendly knocks he began to hear at his door as volunteers with the Moonachie/Little Ferry Relief Fund, a grass-roots organization formed during the crisis, sought out homeowners along the muddy streets in the Metropolitan Mobile Home Park.

"When we saw everything was flooded, we see these people coming, walking in the streets, knocking on doors, asking to help," said Lopez, who lives with his wife and two teenage children. "It was a big help. It was like angels came down."

Once volunteers finished compiling data and assessing the damage to trailers in Moonachie's two mobile home parks, the group fed the information to various volunteer groups that have made repairs, brought in food and medical supplies and set up appointments for victims with representatives from disaster-relief agencies.

Organized by the Rev. Kimberly Chastain, who heads Presbyterian congregations in Wood-Ridge, Moonachie and Lyndhurst, the group has focused on replacing the water-soaked insulation and underpinning of the trailers, helping residents who are the most vulnerable in the crisis with the least disposable income.

The group was awarded a $100,000 grant this month from the Robin Hood Foundation, a charitable organization that attempts to alleviate problems caused by poverty in the New York City area, organizers said.

Even before funds became available, Chastain and her group were in the community targeting distressed dwellings, partnering with other volunteer groups like Rebuilding Together Bergen County, which provides free home repairs, to rip out soggy insulation and plumbing before the winter freeze set in.

"Our goal is to make sure that every trailer that is salvageable gets insulation as soon as possible," said Chastain, who was able to use her credentials in the clergy to acquire quick approval of the group's non-profit status. …

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