The Rockaways- Howard’s House

Before the Thanksgiving holiday I wanted to get back to volunteering.

This time I decided to go to The Rockaways with Occupy Sandy.

I contacted my new friend Paul, from my first volunteer experience in Staten Island, to see if he would like to come along and of course he said YES. For this venture, they asked if people could bring their cars to help get the volunteers to the site, and Paul was gracious enough to bring his car. Thanks again Paul!! We were told to meet at this lovely church in Bay Ridge Brooklyn called“The Good Shepard”, and boy were they ever “GOOD SHEPARDS.” I was really impressed by the amount of supplies and clean up gear stored in their basement that had been donated to distribute to Occupy Sandy and the volunteers.

The Good Shepard Church

The organizers of Occupy, made a list of all the volunteers and helped get everyone paired up with other volunteers to ride together to Far Rockaway.Paul and I were lucky enough to have been paired up with three lovely women, Sai, Kristine, and Aarty, who I now adore and hope to stay in touch with.

2012-11-15 10.12.53
The peeps in this pic, from left to right , Me, Sai, Paul, Kristine, and Aarty

It was a beautiful day and luckily not to chilly for our upcoming work conditions.

It was a very scenic drive to the Rockaways, you almost wouldn’t believe we were heading to a place so devastated by the hurricane.

2012-11-15 08.56.232012-11-15 08.56.492012-11-15 08.58.02

2012-11-15 08.58.09

As we drove into the neighborhood, you could see that the power companies were in full effect trying to restore the lines for the locals.

2012-11-15 09.56.50

When we finally arrived we were told to meet at their sister church in Far Rockaway called “The Pilgrim Church of Averne.” The pilgrim church was used for a staging area to organize, pick up supplies, and give out assignments to the volunteers. There were so many donations of cleaning supplies it was quite amazing. They even had a family that had been making and donating hundreds of lunches every day for the past couple of weeks for the volunteers, to have on hand, out in the field. It was so generous of them, and I applaud their efforts.They were even sensitive to vegetarian needs!! Thanks for keeping us energized!

2012-11-15 10.12.042012-11-15 10.12.14

The five of us, and another car of five, were assigned to a house in Far Rockaway that needed to be emptied and gutted.

The peeps in this pic,  from left to right , Me, Sai, Paul, Kristine, and Aarty
The peeps in this pic, from left to right , Me, Sai, Paul, Kristine, and Aarty

We arrived at HOWARD’S HOUSE ready to work but we were greeted by his tenant Shatisha (who did not want her picture taken), but was willing to give her name and story.

When we opened the door you could smell the mold that had already accumulated through out the house. Shatisha,told us she was a mother of four who lives on the ground floor with her youngest son. She said the kids were staying with family and she had lost everything she owned. She said “I packed up 3 outfits for both of us, and my sons favorite game, thinking we would be back in a couple of days, back to normal. But now everything is gone, except for my sons bike, so please don’t throw that out.”

Shatisha was a very strong woman, but you could see she was just devastated, and trying not to cry, or to be overwhelmed by all of us going through everything that was left of her life. I can’t imagine what that would feel like, CAN YOU? Trying to process the fact  that people are there at your home trying to help you, but they are going to throw everything you love in the trash. Kind of surreal, don’t you think? God Bless her!

She had started cleaning but wanted us to wait for the owner Howard to get instructions on what to do to get started with the demo and gutting of the house.

2012-11-15 10.39.152012-11-15 10.51.532012-11-15 10.38.012012-11-15 13.47.03

As we waited for Howard to arrive we decided to start cleaning the area in the front yard. We swept and gathered trash, debris and some mementos that got lost along the way.

Kristine found this very sweet note from a child to her father. If only we could find them and give them the photos. It would be a nice memory to see this letter again. If any one reads this, and may know who they are, please contact me on my Facebook page “Robins Relief Effort”.

2012-11-15 10.43.35
Beautiful Kristine found this sweet letter
The letter
The letter

This is Howard, he told me that he wanted to get this property back in order, so his tenant would have a place to live. He also told us that his upstairs tenants snuck out in the middle of the night leaving him high and dry. So this was an effort to get both of their lives going again, and we were ready to make that happen.

2012-11-15 13.39.30
Me and Howard

Sai and Kristine were in the back bedroom ripping out the carpet, so I decided to walk around the backyard so I could help them. This is the view of Howard and the neighbor’s backyard and all the items that had been destroyed in the wake of the storm.

2012-11-15 11.25.562012-11-15 11.26.12

The girls had already made a huge dent with ripping up the carpet when I showed up. Sai is the strongest and fastest approx.

5 foot woman I have ever seen! She was running circles around all of us!

2012-11-15 11.26.38

Sai also had an awesome sense of humor,  she says:

“Hey  take a picture of me after I am done, and almost dead,  from working so hard! She was amazing!!

2012-11-15 11.55.56
LOL, Sai!

This was a closet door we pulled from the bedroom, by the look of the sky you would think this was just another beautiful day in the Rockaways. So ironic.

2012-11-15 11.38.58

After we were done with the carpet I made my way around to the front of the house again only to meet this nice man from FEMA. In fact they had 3 reps in one day come by to take information. He explained that they are trying their best to get to everyone, but people need to realize it is going to take a lot longer then expected to get information from everyone affected.

FEMA rep
FEMA rep

These are the Meade contractors helping with appraisals, they were nice enough to offer us a few water bottles from their truck.

2012-11-15 11.59.46
Meade Workers

So I went back inside to help the other volunteers with the gutting of the house. Time to take down the drywall!

Randy and I determined to break down the walls!
Randy and I determined to break down the walls!

  Paul was great at using his feet to help with the expediting of the drywall! Go Paul!!

Kick it in baby!
Kick it in baby!
Paul working hard as usual!
Paul working hard as usual!

After a few hours of continuous cleaning and gutting the drywall, Kristine and I took a break, and went on a quest to find the ladies room. You have to remember everything is without power. We walked a couple of blocks when we came across a “Dunkin Donuts” that was closed and had some serious damage.

Damaged Dunkin
Damaged Dunkin

                                        We took picture through the window, NO coffee or doughnuts today!

peeking shadow
Peeking in  shadow

Behind Dunkin, was the presence of The Military. They had set up nice bathrooms in a trailer that had sinks and running water for the residents. They also were providing cases of water and boxed food, and any assistance they were able to give to the hurricane victims in the area.

2012-11-15 12.59.442012-11-15 12.59.382012-11-15 13.00.152012-11-15 12.59.35

These two nice soldiers, Raphael and Tom  came over to see if we needed help. We told them about our project and volunteers and they insisted on bringing over a couple of cases of water for all of us and the neighbors. There is always a sense of safety when soldiers are around. I was proud to see them lending a helping hand.


2012-11-15 13.07.38

Here are a couple of the photos from the walk back to Howard’s House.

2012-11-15 12.54.292012-11-15 12.54.48

When we got back we went back to drywall demo inside the house.

Sai was taking care of business breaking down the drywall to be bagged for trash.

Go Sai!!
Go Sai!!

We definitely had made some progress!

2012-11-15 12.52.052012-11-15 12.08.21

After about 6 hours, the help of ten volunteers and Howard, were able to completely gut the entire first floor of Howard’s house, so now he can start rebuilding! A step in the right direction for Howard  and Shatisha to have a new beginning.

But, It was time to pack up the tools and go.


2012-11-15 15.12.262012-11-15 14.30.12

          But first we wanted to take a group photo to commemorate this proud moment of a job well done!

2012-11-15 15.10.052012-11-15 15.10.06

A friend of mine pointed out that my shirt looks like it says LOVE YOU! How apropo!
A friend of mine pointed out that my shirt looks like it says LOVE YOU! How apropos!

Its amazing what ten hearts can accomplish when they come together for GOOD!

So many of us talk about being positive, equality, love thy neighbor etc. But if we can’t reach out and help one another when we are in need, then whats the point?

2012-11-15 14.31.47

I think Sais backpack says it all……LOVE ALL, SERVE ALL!  I hope you will too!

To find out how to volunteer for the Hurricane relief just click on my Links to Volunteer Page.:

For updates on how you can help or to add new information: Like me on Facebook @ Robins Relief Effort:

Robins Relief Effort:


One thought on “The Rockaways- Howard’s House

  1. Robin,

    This is truly a wonderful documentary about hope and tenacity. I am so proud of you and your friends and your efforts to help heal and rebuild an area struck by so much devastation. It felt like I was with you as I read through your blog and photos. Thank you for sharing and thank you even more for caring.

    I love you, Michelle


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: