Work on Sandy-damaged home goes on despite snow

Patty MacDonald, of Farmingdale, who is part of

Patty MacDonald, of Farmingdale, who is part of the group Friends of Freeport, works with a hammer inside a home in Babylon that was damaged by superstorm Sandy. Volunteers worked in below-freezing weather following a blizzard to continue repairs. (Jan. 4, 2014) (Credit: Ed Betz)

The shoveling did not stop at Gina Bonner's walkway -- enough snow was cleared from her Babylon yard to make way for a forklift bearing Sheetrock, plywood and insulation Saturday.

About 40 volunteers donned work gloves in below-freezing weather to help rebuild Bonner's house, which she said suffered more than $200,000 in damage from superstorm Sandy's floodwaters.

As the crew ripped out damaged walls and floorboards, Bonner received a certified letter from the state containing a check reimbursing her for some of her repair costs. "I'm ready to faint," said Bonner, 49.


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Family illnesses, unemployment, fights with her insurance company, the discovery of problems with the home's foundation, and the struggle to repair a home with seven people living there has slowed the renovation process.

The snow did not delay things at the house Saturday. When a delivery truck broke down, pickup trucks retrieved the supplies.

"The roads are passable," said Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable development. "The snow will not stop the energy here."

The group, which provided $3,500 of funding for Saturday's effort, created Friends of Long Island to coordinate volunteer groups to rebuild after Sandy. The project has organized rebuilding projects for 40 houses and interior demolition at about 500 homes to help families recovering from the Oct. 29, 2012, storm.

"There's a lot of people falling through the cracks," he said. "What's been filling in the gaps is local people helping local people."

Bonner's boyfriend, Bob Coffey, 52, has been doing much of the reconstruction in the past year but said it was difficult since the house was occupied.

"When people live here, it's hard to rebuild," Coffey said. "One room at a time is difficult."

Saturday's goal was to leave the first floor with insulation, wallboard and a new floor. Rich Cantwell, a Hempstead fire dispatcher and president of Friends of Freeport, which also worked on the house, said helping families is important for the community.

"We want to do whatever we can to keep our families here," he said.

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