SEA BRIGHT – Desiree Pierce is finally home.
Pierce, who saw her home at 19 New St. wrecked by Super Storm Sandy 20 months ago, was back Tuesday, June 17, to see her newly repaired home. She and her family are ready to return, thanks to the efforts of the volunteer and charitable organizations St. Bernard Project and Sea Bright Rising and the work of a youth group organized by the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County.
Pierce’s home was the first completed through the efforts of St. Bernard Project, a Louisiana-based not-for-profit volunteer organization established following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2007. The organization also has been working in Joplin, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y. They have been coordinating efforts with Sea Bright Rising, which was formed following Sandy to assist in recovery efforts.
“This is wonderful. This feels great,” said Pierce during a welcome home celebration, as she toured the completed, but still vacant, two-story home, where she has lived for almost all of her 59 years.
Pierce had homeowner’s insurance but not flood insurance and has been having difficulty applying for the grant money through the state Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program.
“I was approved, denied, approved, denied,” she said. It has left her at wit’s end.
Then the federation and members of Temple Rodeph Tora, Marlboro, stepped in.
According to Rabbi Daniel Weber, his congregation decided to adopt the Pierce family. They raised approximately $43,000 to assist in the rebuilding and refurnishing of the family home.
About 45 members of the Sandy Teen Fellows, organized by the Jewish federation offered their labor, volunteering their time to work on Pierce’s home and other rebuilding efforts in the borough along with those from other organizations and AmeriCorps volunteers.
“These are our neighbors. We had to help,” Weber said. “This isn’t a charity thing, this is about what’s right.”
Pierce, her son and two daughters, who are in their 20s and live with her, were living in a hotel after the storm. When funds got low, they wound up living with family and friends.
Now Pierce hopes to be able to move in this weekend. The first thing she wants to do is cook in her kitchen.