On Saturday, May 21, the FIU Alumni Association of Greater New York (FIUNYC), in partnership with the Friends of Rockaway/St. Bernard Project, put their paws to the wall to help a Brooklyn family rebuild their still devastated home, following the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy nearly four years ago. Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season and the second-costliest hurricane in United States history—second only to Hurricane Andrew, which hit South Florida in 1992.
This project was particularly significant as it meant restoring the house to make it feel like “home” again for eight family members spanning three generations. The homeowner, Danielle Saint-Vil Noel, a single mother who works as a care taker for disabled adults, shared through the St. Bernard Project that on the night of the storm, her family stayed in their home as they watched their basement and first floor flood with 12 inches of water. Following the storm, the family stayed in their home without power until it was restored three days later. Their home also sustained significant roof damage as a result of the storm’s hurricane force winds. They had insurance but this did not provide the financial resources necessary to repair their home—so they continue to live in their storm-damaged home today. The house has mold throughout the basement and first floor and has electrical issues following substandard repairs by the city. Danielle shared that, “having the repairs complete would mean having a weight lifted off my chest. It would be a relief and a blessing.”
Friends of Rockaway is committed to helping return the family to living in a safe and healthy home as soon as funding is secured to complete the repairs. In the meantime, FIUNYC was proud to have played even a small part of making life a little easier and getting them a few steps closer as they worked throughout the day on a variety of tasks from mudding and sanding to installing dry wall and more. According to Site Supervisor Edison Rodriguez, FIUNYC was one of the best groups he’s had the pleasure of working with, as often times, he’s found it hard to motivate volunteers. That wasn’t an issue for FIUNYC, as they were proud to show him what #PantherSpirit is all about.
Each year, the Big Apple Panthers band together to make a difference, volunteering at various sites for community service projects around the Greater New York region, from park clean ups to senior centers to food kitchens and more. This project however, really hit home as living in South Florida really gives you a firsthand experience of the impact the aftermath of a hurricane can have on communities and the emotional toll it takes on families for years after the storm has long passed. “While we enjoy any opportunity to get together as a Panther Network, when we can do so and also make a significant difference in the lives of those in need, it makes it that much more meaningful,” explains FIUNYC Community Service Committee Chair Tom Bello, Jr. “Whether home in Miami, here in Greater New York or anywhere else in the world, we hope to see more alumni joining us and other Panther Networks to give back, support your local communities and make your paw print count.”
By Lori Rodney, Communications Committee Chairperson