Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Couple Get Their Home Back

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Couple Get Their Home Back

Article excerpt

MOONACHIE -- A fire ended his career, then floods took his home. Pete Peterson has had it rough over the last half-decade.

Five years after an electrical fire destroyed the print shop where he worked, pushing him into retirement, Peterson and his wife, Milly, found themselves marooned upstairs in their tidy house on West Park Street, listening as 4 feet of Sandy floodwater ravaged the first floor below.

The flood damage forced the couple to move in with their daughter as workers gutted and boarded up the structure.

On Saturday, they got it back. The house where Milly grew up and Pete, an Air Force veteran, had lived for 47 years -- the one they feared they had lost -- was finally restored after more than a hundred volunteers spent the last two months putting in new floors and walls, renovating the kitchen and bathroom and applying a fresh coat of paint.

"I see people in town who wouldn't say hello to you before [who are] now helping everyone put the town back together again," Pete Peterson, surrounded by volunteers with tool belts and paint rollers, said of Moonachie, one of the North Jersey communities hardest hit by Sandy in October.

The project was the first stop on the summer-long "Make a Difference" tour of 20 towns and cities around the country -- from Miami to Sturgis, S.D. -- to fix up the homes of military veterans. It was borne out of a collaboration that connects big-box stores with local charities -- one that saw an outpouring of support in Moonachie, where 10 percent of the borough's 2,700 residents are still repairing homes that were damaged when Sandy made landfall six months ago.

With government aid steaming in at a slow trickle, Moonachie residents say they are desperate for outside help. Beyond the "Make a Difference" tour, the Bergen County chapter of the non-profit Rebuilding Together plans to fix up to four damaged homes in the county each month for the next year.

The Peterson project is part of a venture that focuses on helping veterans more than storm victims. Pete Peterson, 71, just happened to be both.

Gretchen Viggiano, the executive director of Rebuilding Together's Bergen County chapter, said the $40,000 grant to restore the Petersons' home came from two major sponsors: Sears and the tool manufacturer Craftsman, which is hauling a 36-foot trailer to each stop on the tour. …

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