Sandy victim rewarded with home rebuilding

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For a while in post-Sandy New York, Long Beach's Charlie Sadler was both victim and rescue worker.

"Sunday through Friday, I'd work on my house," he said. "Saturday, I'd go help my fellow first responders."

For Sadler, 36, a New York City police officer, "It was a personal reset button."

Sadler, a recent cancer survivor, was rewarded by his colleagues on Friday. His West Walnut Street bungalow, which he shares with his wife, Gina Carrillo-Sadler, 35, was wrecked by Sandy. Earlier this year, it was selected to be rebuilt by the Manhattan-based New York Says Thank You Foundation.

The organization, which works at disaster relief sites across the country, sprang up in 2003 as a way to thank communities that came to the aid of New Yorkers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

A group of 60 in hard hats bearing American flags was at Sadler's demolished bungalow Friday, working on a new two-story structure.

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And they talked about the scars of disaster.

"We know what they went through," said Erik Kreppein, 57, a fire investigator from Slidell, La. After meeting rescue workers from the organization after Hurricane Katrina, Kreppein said he was game for recovery missions.

"I can feel for the people here along the East Coast," he said. Helping, he said, "is a good feeling."

For Jim Fox, 56, a real estate broker from Ellijay, Ga., it was picking up the pieces after a tornado destroyed a beloved community barn. All inside -- 61 animals, four people -- survived.

"It looked like the boardwalk," he said of Long Beach's iconic structure destroyed by Sandy.

Jeff Parness, founder and chairman of the foundation, said after Sandy he learned 2,000 city first responders suffered significant damage to their homes and set a goal of helping 10 percent of them. By week's end, he said he expects the organization to have helped fix 80 homes, from "Staten Island to Massapequa," adding he expects the program to expand to help first responders who work for Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Parness said his organization targets the underinsured, and it does not fully fund the renovations, but aims to "bridge the gap between what insurance paid for them and what it's going to take to get them home for the holidays." He valued the Sadlers' renovations at $100,000.

The project is part of the organization's 9/11 anniversary "barn-raising" effort, focusing this weekend on 16 homes affected by Sandy.

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As work slowed to a stop Friday, a group of firefighters from Hawaii made conversation. Keoni Abaya, 36, of Honolulu, invoked native lore.

"The people that we've met have welcomed us with that same type of open arms and Aloha spirit," he said.

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