Rebuilding Together’s strong network of affiliates can always be counted on to spring to action when devastation occurs from a large storm such as Hurricane Sandy. When “Super Storm Sandy” left town, 350,000 homes in New Jersey and over 300,000 homes in New York were damaged or completely destroyed. NBC News reported, on October 30th of last year, that residents of four New Jersey towns were terrified as they watched the racing water take over their streets after a levee failed to hold back the storm surge caused by Hurricane Sandy. All four of these towns were a part of Bergen County, so it comes as no surprise to me that the Bergen County affiliate of Rebuilding Together has been in serious overdrive ever since.
Within Bergen County you’ll find Little Ferry, although geographically small it is gladly called home by nearly 11,000 residents who are trying to pick up the pieces that were left after Hurricane Sandy’s raging waters plowed through. Back in the mid 2000s, Bergen County was one of many across the United States that proudly sent volunteers to New Orleans to help in their rebuilding process after Hurricane Katrina left many homeless. Almost every year from 2006-2010 volunteers from Bergen County have headed back to the Gulf Coast area to continue helping in the rebuilding process. Little did they know that a few short years later they would be hoping others would kindly come to their rescue as well.
Little Ferry is home to the Hook & Ladder Company and the Hose Company which is comprised of a volunteer based group of firefighters who actually own the two buildings that house them. This amazing group of firefighters has been protecting its community since 1921. They immediately sprung into action when Hurricane Sandy hit and, while they were out rescuing their fellow neighbors, their own homes and firehouses were flooding. Little Ferry is a small town with a big heart that unfortunately was taken over by the powerful storm’s waves. When the bay doors were pushed aside by the storm surge, water rushed in up to 41” from the floor of the firehouse. That’s a good two feet higher then water had reached a year before when Hurricane Irene made an unwelcome guest appearance in the small town.
Mayor Mauro Raguseo’s Little Ferry home was just one of the many that were flooded. He described the onslaught that overflowed the berms from the Hackensack River as, “…the worst sounds you could ever imagine.” He had only been in his home for six months when he lost everything and only could say, “it’s just devastating.” Mayor Raguseo should be proud of his town as it is a place where residents pulled together and used any form of water craft they had to shuttle each other out of harm’s way. Members of an extended family from the area used their large cargo truck to ferry an estimated 275 passengers to shelters.
Immediately after Hurricane Sandy left town, Rebuilding Together responded by letting the affected areas know that they would provide critical home repairs to the survivors of the storm for free through their affiliates in New York City, Long Island, Bergen County, Jersey City, and Essex County. However, it is the stories from Rebuilding Together Bergen County that have really struck a chord with me. They have completed 155 projects and served 204 people in the neighboring towns of Little Ferry and Moonachie out of the 350 people assisted across all the affected areas without showing signs of stopping any time soon.
In February of this year, Rebuilding Together Bergen County teamed up with volunteers from Rotary District 7490, IBEW Local 164, and the Little Ferry Fire Department itself to rebuild the fire houses. In-kind donations from Egyed Contracting, Ulrich Kitchens, Kuiken Brothers, Norton’s Paint, Feldman Electric, OC Floor Gallery, Mohawk Tile, Stone Surfaces and Creative Bath sales were combined with the generous donations from the Sears Heroes at Home program to help get the firehouse doors back open again. That was just the beginning of the rehabilitation that Little Ferry would undergo thanks to Rebuilding Together Bergen County and I’m excited to get a closer look at more in the next five weeks.