By Lauren Wanko
A team of volunteers hangs drywall in a storm-damaged house they’ve helped transform into a home for Port Monmouth resident Robert Ferrante.
“It’s a great feeling just to know people out there care,” Ferrante said.
Ferrante just moved back home two weeks ago. Faced with rebuilding costs, which ultimately led to a hefty loan, the single father credits Gateway Disaster Relief — a non-profit — and other charities for getting his family back here.
“It would have been impossible. We’d probably still be in an apartment,” he said.
The Port Monmouth resident says the RREM grant he received wasn’t enough.
“My whole project cost $80,000 for the elevation and they gave me $20,000,” Ferrante said.
“I think the government is trying to subsidize people getting back in their homes, but you know as well as I do, when you’ve lost everything, it costs a lot more than $150,000 to get your life back, so essentially, even those who are receiving RREM, they’re finding they have a gap,” said Gateway Church of Christ Pastor Carl Williamson.
Williamson says his relief group is working to fill those gaps. Case managers set up shop in Union Beach Borough Hall two days after the storm, first distributing household supplies, then appliances and now they’ve moved on to helping those move into their homes.
“It really has been encouraging recently. As homeowners come in and say, ‘I’m at my last and I can’t get that finished’ and I can say, ‘Hey we’ll take care of this project,’” Williamson said.
So far Gateway Disaster Relief has repaired 250 homes throughout Monmouth County. A team of volunteers does everything from replacing windows and doors, insulation, demo work and more.
The relief group received money from the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund, the Robin Hood Foundation and hundreds of churches nationwide. Thousands of volunteers have joined the effort. Gateway encourages those volunteers to pay for the projects they work on.
Today Ferrante’s home is filled with volunteers from Michigan.
“To be able to come and help people in need is an absolute privilege,” said Jeremy Wurm.
The greatest pay-off for volunteer Bridget Levander.
“To see their faces and get to know them and make their house better then it was,” she said.
“I just thought it would be really good to give back to people who have gone through struggles for them to know that people in the world care about them and are here to help,” said Roxy Vandermolen.
Ferrante says thanks to these volunteers. That’s something he is aware of. And now he’s grateful to stand, once again, on his front porch.