Union Beach Sandy Victims Can Return Home, Thanks to Habitat for Humanity

By Lauren Wanko
NJ Today

Union Beach residents Tom and Colleen Burke are thrilled to finally be standing on their new deck.

“I can’t wait to put the patio furniture on it and sit out there and have a cup of tea and enjoy it,” Colleen Burke said.

We first met the Burkes on Friday when Habitat for Humanity of Monmouth County volunteers were hard at work replacing the damages Sandy left behind. In just three days, strangers gave the Burkes back their deck, stairs, balcony soffit and sense of normalcy.

“Every Habitat project is always very rewarding. This project, it was magnified by 100 times, 1,000 times,” said Habitat for Humanity Director of Operations Raymond Gabler.

Longtime Habitat volunteers President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn visited Union Beach Saturday to help build a new home.

“Our hearts went out to people that live along this seacoast when Superstorm Sandy did hit and we’ve been worried about you all ever since and it’s really gratifying to come and see all the work that has been done already,” President Carter said.

Little by little the house is beginning to look more like a home. Today the foundation for the second floor is almost complete.

“The energy, the enthusiasm, the compassion of all the volunteers that were here, it just lifts you up,” Gabler said.

Habitat for Humanity originally planned to rebuild two homes and repair another 14, but this weekend the non-profit had more manpower than anticipated, so crews repaired an additional two homes.

The volunteer efforts are desperately needed in this hard hit shore town. Sandy damaged 1,200 to 1,300 homes in Union Beach and 400 to 500 families still aren’t back in their homes.

“It’s heartbreaking to a certain extent, but when you drive around and see new construction, that’s kind of uplifting,” said Union Beach Councilman Victor Tuberion.

Robert and Patty Ford lost the siding of their home to Sandy. Volunteers worked for days to make the repairs. Today the homeowners can’t help but smile as they look at the finished product. And crews rolled up their sleeves inside too, rebuilding a brand new kitchen for the Fords.

“It was incredible. We really appreciate everything thing they did for us and it’s kind of emotional that so many people volunteered and helped us,” said Robert Ford.

“Oh my goodness you don’t even know. We are so happy to be able to cook again. I have a chef right over here,” said Patty Ford, as she pointed to her husband.

The Fords’ kitchen appliances are arriving tomorrow. Their first home cooked meal? Filet mignon.