Call it “Saving Gerritsen Beach.”
The storm-battered, working class neighborhood was invaded June 6 by an army of more than 500 volunteers, who swept in to replace fallen fences, repaint battered walls, and retile the flooded floors of homes and civic structures that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy, exactly 69-years after D-Day, when the U.S. swept into France in World War II and sent the Nazis hightailing it to Berlin.
“I’ll always remember June 6,” said veteran and retired postal worker Dennis Karnbach, who’s Noel Avenue home flooded during Sandy. “Once because of D-Day, and twice because of Rebuilding Together.”
Rebuilding Together, a non-profit organization which works to improve the accommodations of low-income people, the elderly, and the disabled, and Race2Repair, a group that holds a charity race, entered into a joint venture with media conglomerate Meredith Corporation and Lowe’s hardware to lead the repair initiative which arranged for material, appliances, and droves of volunteer builders to storm the neighborhood and right the wrongs of Herr Hurricane.
Much like in Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan,” a detachment of 25 volunteers from Lowe’s, called Lowe’s Heroes, stormed Karnbach’s house to repair the damaged fence around his home, replace tiles in his kitchen, and paint the inside walls of his first floor, while Rebuilding Together arranged for contractors to install two doors, a refrigerator, washer and drier, as well as an IOU for a new microwave.
The Noel Avenue home is now, finally, nearing 100 percent, thanks to Rebuilding Together, and other organizations that visited Karnbach’s residence prior to the June 6 blitz. The other groups include Gerritsen Beach Cares and HEART 9/11, which Karnback likened to “marines.”
“They go in first and do the heavy work,” he said.
Rebuilding Together, through its sponsors and fund-raising efforts, had enough money and material to assist at least seven homes. In addition, landscaping volunteers helped repair the Vollie Memorial Training Hall and the community library. Much of the work was completed yesterday, but volunteers will be back to finish the job, according to Rebuilding Together spokeswoman Janice Walker.
“We’re there for the long-term recovery,” she said.
The organization’s capacity to assist Gerritsen Beach is, needless to say, limited by the amount of funds they have to put towards materials. Still, it gave the hard-hit neighborhood a much needed morale boost. Both the people who were helped, and many who weren’t, were all smiles on D-Day,
“Everybody was smiling around here,” said Karnbach. “Now I can get my life back to normal, and that’s what you strive for — normalcy. I even got the mail coming back to the house!”Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cn