‘A Future With Hope’ Helps Tuckerton Woman Return Home

Faith-Based Volunteers Lead Recovery From Sandy
By PAT JOHNSON | Nov 04, 2015
Photo by: Pat Johnson Homeowner Jeanne DeMarsico in her new home with her son, John Covert, and grandchildren (from left) Emily and Jennifer Covert.

One of the first celebrations Jeanne DeMarsico had in her newly constructed Tuckerton Beach home was a house blessing that included William Stokes, the Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of New Jersey, the Rev. Hector Burgos of the United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey, and the Rev. Lou Strugala, construction director and spiritual advisor for A Future with Hope.

Many more joined in the celebration, fresh from a Superstorm Sandy anniversary gathering of faith-based relief groups held in Tuckerton to mark the third year since the 2012 disaster.

There were so many well-wishers climbing the steps to DeMarsico’s elevated home on Thursday, Oct. 29, that the modest 1,200-square-foot modular proved its strength. “It’s certainly well-built,” said a bystander.

The cause for celebration was not just the fact that DeMarsico was home again but also the fact that in the future, many more struggling Sandy victims would have reason to celebrate.

Through a partnership between A Future With Hope, a United Methodist Church nonprofit, and local for-profit contractor Miller Homes, and the help of volunteers from the World Renew Organization, Episcopal Relief and Development, and the Long Term Recovery Group, DeMarsico was able to stretch her grant and insurance dollars and make her new home ownership possible.

DeMarsico tells her Sandy survivor story on the website afuturewithhope.org under the label “Jeanne’s Story.”

She and her husband moved to Tuckerton Beach from Ocean City in 2001 and began to rehab a two-bedroom cottage that was one of the original homes still standing on a concrete slab. Despite being at sea level, DeMarsico said the home had never been flooded before Sandy. But Sandy made up for it. On Oct. 29, 2012, the home was inundated with nine feet of water when the storm surge came through Holgate and into Little Egg Harbor and Tuckerton Bay. The water then went out again, leaving four feet of standing water that oozed out the walls and doors.

Tuckerton officials closed South Green Street and the Tuckerton Beach area for a week until the natural gas service was turned off everywhere. When DeMarsico was able to return to her home a week after Sandy hit, she was overcome by the amount of damage and work that had to be done.

She said the first good thing to happen was a group of people from a local church came by with hot food for the homeowners who were cleaning up.

In 2013, her beloved husband passed away and DeMarsico had to navigate the recovery process on her own.

“I was still paying the mortgage and living with my sister. And the relief groups I contacted said I wasn’t destitute enough for them to help me. I was told to call back when I was completely broke.”

Her home was too damaged for her to rebuild but her mortgage company told her she couldn’t demolish the house and rebuild until she could prove she had every penny to do that. Not poor enough for relief and not wealthy enough to rebuild, DeMarsico was in a tight spot.

But when she found the faith-based group A Future With Hope in 2013 during a Governor’s Cabinet meeting held at the First United Methodist Church in Tuckerton, she was told to be strong and maybe they could help her.

In June, a manufactured home built by Dura Built Homes from Selins Grove, Pa. was set on pilings through Miller Homes. Volunteers from faith-based groups across the country arrived to help the finishing work. A group of young people from the Episcopal Church even dug the ditch for the sewer hook-up.

DeMarsico moved home on Sept. 23.

The blessing of the new home on the third anniversary of so much destruction was also an invitation to partake of the Christian communion table. Rev. Strugala reminded the gathering that Christ said that he would fulfill anything that was asked in his name.

“We thank you for trusting in God and giving us the opportunity to share God’s love.”

Bishop Stokes said that out of the devastation, it was a wonderful thing to see how God’s kindness works through people.

Rev. Burgos said giving thanks to the volunteers and celebrating the day would give hope to the families still waiting to return home. A Future With Hope has set a goal to help at least 500 more across the state in the next five years. They have eight homes started in Ocean, Monmouth and Atlantic counties. DeMarsico’s was the first manufactured home they completed.

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

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