THE SALVATION ARMY, OTHERS,
WELCOME HOME SANDY SURVIVOR

When Superstorm Sandy struck the Greater New York area in October 2012, Rockaway Peninsula resident Cecil Lloyd-Bey was among those forced to pick up and evacuate. What followed was a grueling ordeal during which he doubted he’d ever be able to return and safely live in his home again.

Nearly four years later, Mr. Lloyd-Bey is doing just that, thanks to the efforts of The Salvation Army, Friends of Rockaway, SBP (formerly St. Bernard Project), AmeriCorps volunteers, and others who cared.

THE ROAD BACK TO HOPE

Marking the occasion was a “Welcome Home” party on July 15th held for Mr. Lloyd-Bey at his newly renovated home, hosted by the organizations that gave him back something the storm had nearly taken from him — hope.

“This whole neighborhood was devastated by the storm,” he said to the volunteers, organization representatives, and other well-wishers who gathered for the celebration. “This house in particular was under seven feet of water. There was mold growing on the walls. I’d actually see mushrooms growing out of the carpet, there was so much mold in this house. . . .”

During the nearly four-year ordeal, Mr. Lloyd-Bey was forced to live with relatives, in a hotel (costs covered by FEMA), and even for a time in the mold-infested house itself.

“When I was at the end, the very end, when I was about to give up, God sent a lifeline,” he said.

THOSE WHO CARED

The lifeline was Friends of Rockaway, today a local affiliate of the national organization SBP, who, along with the help of AmeriCorps volunteers, coordinated and performed all the repairs on the house, and The Salvation Army, which provided 100% of the funding for the project.

“The Salvation Army is a national organization but we always work very locally,” said Diana Lopez, Recovery Coordinator for The Salvation Army Greater New York Division Emergency Services, one of several speakers at the event. (The Army had been originally connected to organizations like Friends of Rockaway through the Queens Recovery Coalition, a coalition of agencies and organizations working together to address issues related to Sandy recovery.)

The Salvation Army, noted Ms. Lopez, realizes that recovery from a large-scale event like Sandy takes years, so it budgets funding to support the affected community through long-term recovery.

“Many of these organizations cannot do it alone, including The Salvation Army,” said Ms. Lopez. “When you take case managers, when you take construction experts, and when you take donor funding and put that all together, you get projects like this that could not have been done alone. So thank you so much, thanks to our partners, and thank you for being here today.”

“The Salvation Army has done a lot for Friends of Rockaway,” said Thomas Corley, its director. “In the last six months they’ve provided us with over a half million dollars to support rebuild throughout the Rockaways and Brooklyn. On this home alone they contributed more than $60,000 so that Friends of Rockaway could purchase the materials to get Cecil back home. I cannot thank you enough, Diana, and sincerely we would not be here today without The Salvation Army.”

A HOMECOMING

To walk through the newly renovated home today makes it hard to imagine the extensive damage that had once been done to the house — located a stone’s throw from the water in the community of Arverne. The renovated walls, floors and ceilings are now pristine, beautifully painted and finished, and heat and electricity is back. Outside, the house boasts a renovated porch, a new roof — and even a new tree on the front lawn.

For Cecil, the possibility of losing a house his family had moved into 38 years ago was unthinkable. “I have a personal attachment to his neighborhood,” said Cecil, a facilities manager for an assisted-living adult home in the Rockaways. “I went to school here. I graduated here. My family grew up here. My mother passed away in this house. So there’s a huge sentimental attachment I have for this house.”

Though he estimates there are still between 2,000-3,000 more properties in New York City in need of Sandy-related repair work, Mr. Corley was happy Cecil is no longer among them. “We’re thankful to be able to get Cecil home today and know that at least one more [homeowner] is off the list of to-do,” he said.

Following the remarks, Cecil performed a ceremonial ribbon-cutting at his front door, to robust applause. Afterwards, the crowd enjoyed lunch, cold water and soda (on a blistering hot day), a “Welcome Home” cake, and tours of the house.

“There have been so many people involved in this project behind the scenes . . . I just can’t give enough thanks for what they’ve done for me,” said Cecil Lloyd-Bey, a happy and proud homeowner once again.