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16 May 2016

Success Stories: The Pirl Family

13178791_657731907709668_1018482729911082205_n Caitlin was walking home when a drunk driver struck her nearly ten years ago. This accident left her paralyzed from the waist down and unable to navigate her ranch style home. In order to make the house more accessible, her father, Chris, spent $40,000 on renovations…only to watch Sandy destroy it all months later. For years they struggled to work their way through a mess of paperwork, which was compounded by a low flood insurance payout.

Eventually, they became clients of OCLTRG and our Disaster Case Managers helped them through the NFIP review that resulted in thousands of recovered dollars! But most importantly, we provided extensive emotional support for the family and truly cared about their progress. Now, Caitlin is nearly ready to move back into her new, entirely handicap-accessible home! “Its everything I could have ever wanted for her,” says her father. To date, OCLTRG has impacted 488 households with disabled persons.

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26 Nov 2014

Bruce Duran – An “I Think I Can” Man

DSC06762“…Previous storms were like as they say… ‘the sky is falling, the sky is falling,’ and the sky never fell.—But this time it did.”   These were the thoughts and recollections of Bruce Duran, a twenty year resident of the Barrier Islands’ beautiful Normandy Beach in Ocean County, NJ.  Thinking he could ride out Hurricane Sandy in his near beach-front property, Bruce had an upfront view of the storm and her power.  Very quickly the waves started coming in over the dunes and surrounding his house from three different directions.  At a friend’s urgent suggestion, he finally left his house to run down the street, in-between the huge waves, to a safer location.

When the storm had passed, Bruce recalls that it was like Monopoly houses flipped on their sides in the street.  As for his house, it was left severely damaged and would later need to be demolished.  “The worse part of the storm was not only that you lost…your home, but you weren’t allowed to come back for six months. So…you’re at a crossroads and you don’t know which way to go…”  The complexity of insurance companies, federal programs and township procedures only added to the confusion and frustration of the situation.

To save on costs, Bruce—who works as a heavy equipment operator—undertook the daunting and emotionally trying task of demolishing his own house.  “That was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. … You think about…your daughter’s graduation, your son’s graduations, your summers, your family…all going into the dumpster.  Pretty tough.  Pretty tough.”  Bruce turned to the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group (OCLTRG) to try and keep moving forward.  His Disaster Case Manager helped him through the process, which as Bruce puts it was “pretty easy”—a refreshing difference as compared to the rest of his recovery experience.  The OCLTRG was able to get Bruce the lumber needed to rebuild his house, which he hopes to move back into by the end of the year.

Despite living through one of the toughest times in his life, when asked what motivated him to keep going, Bruce spoke of how fortunate he was to have such great support from his friends.  “And also too, you reach out to people like the Long Term Recovery, they reach back to you. And that’s a very nice thing. …And that motivates you even to say, ‘Wow. There’s somebody that really does care. …That goes a long way.”

So what’s Bruce looking most forward to?  “Sitting down and having a meal in my own house; spending holidays there like we did in the past; and just settle in”.  Despite the difficulties of living displaced for over two years now, Bruce is still able to be a positive influence on those around him:  “But you know, you gotta keep a good attitude…you gotta stay upbeat. … In everything you do in life there’s always gonna be a little bit of hurdles. You know, you just gotta overcome ‘em that’s all.”


05 Aug 2014

“Debbie from Brick”


Driving up to the house, it’s easy to assume that the Fortiers are well-off. The new modular home installed along the lagoon fits in with the surrounding houses, and if it wasn’t for the little Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group sign by the road, you might not know that their home had been devastated by Hurricane Sandy. But 22 months later, Debbie and Tom Fortier are still in the process of recovering.

When I met with them to hear their story, Debbie and Tom were quick to admit they are the last people to ask for help. Even after 3 ½ feet of water flooded their home, they felt they would be able to rebuild with little or no assistance. Debbie and Tom set out to save their home, where they’ve lived for 25 years, only to find the foundation had been damaged. The house was demolished, and Debbie and Tom knew they would have to swallow their pride and reach out for help.

But navigating the maze to sustainable recovery can be overwhelming. They applied for several grants, and were caught in a cycle of starting and stopping work as they waited to be approved. That’s when their pastor at Brick Presbyterian Church stepped in. He knew the Fortiers as leaders in the church – Tom is a Deacon, and both he and his wife lead the Junior High Youth Group. But he also knew the Fortiers would have a hard time accepting help. As Debbie puts it, “It’s hard to wrap your mind around the fact that you’re needy.” Luckily, their pastor pointed them in the direction of the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group.

Despite their mixed feelings, the Fortiers made the call to OCLTRG. Now, 10 months into their recovery, Debbie and Tom agree that it was the “best thing that ever happened.” Disaster Case Manager Eva Meyers guided them through the grant process, and secured rental assistance for the months they’ve been out of their home. She worked with them as the modular home company delayed installation month after month until finally, in April of 2014, the Fortiers had their new modular home in place.

Since then, OCLTRG has been able to help with electricity, HVAC, flooring, and cabinetry. And thanks to our new partnership with A Future with Hope the Fortiers have had a steady stream of volunteers from across the country helping put their new home together. The help from OCLTRG, combined with volunteer efforts, is making sure the Fortiers can get back in their home as soon as possible. “We are just so grateful,” says Debbie. “Meeting with the volunteers, you feel like you get to share their stories and learn about their lives.”

Despite headaches, setbacks, and heartache, Debbie and Tom can now stand in their new house and know that soon, it will be a home.