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Cleanup Post-Sandy Can Seem Like 'Mission Impossible'

Ocean Gate family begins long process of cleaning up, repairing extensive damage

Landlord Jerry D’Alessandro wove his arms in excitement and relief as work trucks pulled up to his home in Ocean Gate.

Volunteering for the Lacey United Methodist Church, I helped four men — whom I never met before — attack what used to be the primary residence of a family of four before Hurricane Sandy created a storm surge that would obliterate homes all along the Jersey Shore.

The stench inside was unbearable. A mask covered my nose and mouth as I still took in the odors of mildew and the Barnegat Bay.

Water levels had rose more than a foot that Monday, and fish from the bay were found about the house. The crawl space also was filled with water.

The family had already begun moving their belongings to the curb — furniture, boxes of Christmas decorations, mirrors, any objects that had been contaminated.

While “recover” is the word most use when moving on post-Sandy, we entered the home to destroy, still one step closer to having the family return to their home, although it may take months.

From taking out carpet to ripping up the floor lining and cleaning out the home, the job was grueling, devoid of any personal attachments or the emotional distress that must come with discovering your home under water and most of your belongings gone.

The family lined the curb with 20 years worth of belongings.

I joined the men in tearing up the flooring with shovels. While they progressed quickly, my area amounted to maybe one square foot. I needed a new job.

My focus was cutting up carpet into pieces that would be fitting to place along the curb, a job I would have been perfectly fine never having to do but under current circumstances, we are called to help those less fortunate.

Holding a blade in my hand for the first time, the job was not easy. The carpet was thick and heavy, as the Barnegat had drenched it. My body aches in places that haven’t ached since I was a college athlete.

“If this isn’t mission impossible, I don’t know what is,” D’Alessandro said, carrying more items to the curb.

Without flood insurance, D’Alessandro was facing at least a $55,000 loss on property damage, he said. But he, the mother of the household Helen Eayre and her son Stephen were warm, undisturbed and resolute.

“I had my breakdown,” Helen Eayre said, describing the situation as “awful.”

The family had evacuated prior to the storm but never expected the results of Sandy to be so severe, she said.

“This is the worse flooding I’ve ever seen,” she said.

When asked how she remains in good spirits under such circumstances, she said, “You just got to.”

The family will be looking for temporary housing while the home gets repaired.

As lighting became meager, our job came to a close and we brought the remaining items to the curb. Helen and Stephen packed their Toyota Echo with what little they were able to save.

The stench had begun to abate with what little we were able to accomplish.

I stared at the quaint home imagining where the Christmas decorations would have gone had Sandy spared the family.

The Earyes drove away from their now empty home, leaving the pile out front in their past.

D’Alessandro shook my hand, which was cold.

“Cold hands mean warm heart,” he said in his thick Italian accent.

WhyohWhy November 08, 2012 at 01:10 PM
God bless the Lacey United Methodist Church Volunteers ! They are everywhere !
Louie November 08, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Yes. God Bless Lacey United Methodist Church and all its volunteers as well. They are doing a amazing job and stepped up to the plate immediately and continue to help with all needs. The Church is requesting Cleaning supplies, Black garbage bags, masks, heavy duty rubber gloves, toiletries, shovels and plastic bins . We are collecting items at Prudential Realtors 640 Lacey Road as well.
Booner November 08, 2012 at 02:36 PM
St. Pius should be ashamed. The largest church in our area, and doing the least to support our community. Everyone who is a member at that church should make their donations at the Lacey United Methodist Church. At least you know it will go where it is needed, and not into the pockets of St. Pius.
Louie November 08, 2012 at 02:49 PM
I agree . I am also disappointed
Jody P. November 08, 2012 at 04:29 PM
On Tuesday, we were wet, cold and exhausted, trying to tear up carpet and drag the wet mess outside. Neighbors trying to offer support to one another, but no one had power. I have never felt so without hope. And then I heard my neighbor yell to me - hot soup! And there on Sandpiper was a car with a young girl who had hot food, water, snacks and words of encouragement. she was from Lacey Methodist Church. Didn't matter who we were, she was there to help us. Thank God for the goodness of those people who are working round the clock to help us. And I too would like to know where St Pius is during this crisis!
Louie November 08, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Amazing grace to lacey methodist church and its volunteers. Thank you
Lacey Lover November 08, 2012 at 05:18 PM
I agree - with all the facilities of that Church they have done nothing.
Jody P. November 08, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Is anyone concerned that there will only be 4 days for debris pick-up in Lacey? Berkeley and Barnegat have trucks out daily to pick up debris, and we are only going to have 2 Wednesdays and 2 Saturdays? Without power, we can't even get back in the house to do a clean-up let alone get it outside by the Lacey deadline. I am dissappointed that Lacey is not doing as much as Barnegat and Berkeley with regards to the debris.
CWRElect November 08, 2012 at 06:23 PM
If anyone is in need of FREE, MOVING-SIZE BOXES please contact CWR Electronics by emailing TeamCWR (at) cwrelectronics.com . We have a large supply of boxes and they are available for free to anyone who needs them for salvaging home items, boxing donations, etc.
Helping November 08, 2012 at 09:20 PM
I understand that St. Pius is working in conjunction with the Methodist Church. Providing food, diapers and a warm place. God bless all who help.
listener handsome November 09, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Where are all the sports teams and organizations in town volunteering their efforts? We are constantly barraged at our door for donations, but i do not see theses clubs volunteering to help, clean up , distribute water or supplies, or other simple tasks?? You find it easy to ask for money, you should also find it easy to give back!!
Tom Crowell November 09, 2012 at 03:14 PM
@listener handsome. Lacey Little League had no electric last Saturday, but still set up grills and cooked hamburgers and hot dogs and delivered them to the people down in Forked River Beach. We supplied water and brought coffee to people cleaning our their houses. Many people volunteered and brough additional items like pasta, subs, brownies, etc. We fed a couple hundred people. We did it without fanfare, just wanted to help how we could. Women's softball is having a food drive today, again as a group without tooting their own horn, just to help people in need. In addition, please note that we live here too and many of our participants have been hit hard. Only a fraction of what's being done to help people is reported and that's fine. We don't do these things for the pat on the back, but to help those in need.
Elaine November 13, 2012 at 07:47 PM
St. Pius only supplied clothes for a week. Then they closed their doors....
Elaine November 13, 2012 at 07:57 PM
St. Pius opened their doors for a week with clothing, charging phones, etc.Then they closed their doors. Everyone who donated their time, effort, food, shelter, should be proud. We all did it from the kindness of our hearts, and support of the community, and want nothing in return. But lets remember that this is only the beginning. The people who lost their homes still need our support and assistance. Thanksgiving and Christmas is right around the corner. Let's be in if for the long haul. So lets keep the kindness going...
cc November 15, 2012 at 06:30 AM
I can't begin to explain to you how much your heartfelt sincere assistance meant to my father. He is forever grateful for all of the help that the volunteers were able to do. I have heard all of the devastating and gory details. My parents will not forget, and our family is very appreciative of the volunteers and yourself for helping him. Thank you so very much for all that you do.
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How MORONIC are you 5 years old?
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