The owner of the first home completed in the Samaritan's Purse rebuild program for Hurricane Sandy victims in New York wants to use it for God’s work
Nine months ago, Nancy and Susan Giuffrida evacuated their home in Island Park, New York, as Hurricane Sandy drew closer. The weeks and months since have been filled with loss and grieving, but also with restoration and rejoicing.
The Giuffridas were one of 1,300 families helped by Samaritan’s Purse disaster response teams in the weeks following the storm. As we transitioned from relief to restoration, the Giuffridas were accepted into our program to rebuild or repair as many as 40 homes in Island Park and Tom’s River, New Jersey
On August 9, about 100 people filled the large yard to celebrate the dedication of Nancy and Susan’s reconstructed home, the first completed in New York.
Because of the seawater that flooded the neighborhood, the Giuffrida house had to be completely gutted down to the studs and then rebuilt on the inside. It was a hard process for Nancy and Susan, her daughter.
Their family was among the original residents of Island Park. Her parents built a bungalow to serve as a vacation home in 1933. Every summer, they left their home in Flushing and spent 10 weeks there.
When Nancy married Dominick Giuffrida in 1952, her mother gave the young couple the bungalow as their first home. It was where Susan grew up. So the house that Hurricane Sandy destroyed on the inside held a lot of memories for them.
But in the midst of the painful process, Susan said God kept sending people, including Samaritan’s Purse volunteers, to help her and other families in the community.
The night before the dedication, Susan shared with the rebuild staff and the volunteers there for the week about how life-changing the past nine months had been.
“I keep coming back to this idea of nine months, and it has felt something like a birthing process for me,” she said. “It has taken my Christian life and my relationship with Jesus to a whole new place. Getting to see real Christianity in action through the hundreds and hundreds of volunteers – it’s just been amazing grace.”
Being around the volunteers encouraged Susan to be more outgoing in her faith. Because of their influence, she has become much more comfortable asking anyone anywhere if she can pray for them—even if she’s just standing in the middle of her street talking to a neighbor.
The building project has also been a witness to the community.
“Everybody knows the orange shirts, everybody knows what they are about,” Susan said. “People in my neighborhood have been ministered to. Jesus has just been shared in such a tremendous way. It’s humbling that God would use our home through this disaster to bring the light of the Lord.
“The Lord’s using this house for ministry, and I’d like to see that continue.”
The volunteers and Susan’s pastor, Peter Conforti, bore witness to the fact that she has been serving those around her, from taking the garbage man a water bottle to heading up her church’s food pantry.
David Pertl, our construction supervisor who oversaw the entire project, referenced that during the dedication ceremony before handing over the keys to their new home.
“Sue, you’ve done what you could do to help those in need. You’ve built relationships with them, you’ve done all that you could do for the Lord,” he said. “As we go out to do what He calls us to do, we may lose things, it may cost us more than we were anticipating or willing to pay. But He always gives back.”
Hurricane Sandy was not even the first time that Susan had lost a home to a hurricane. In 1992, her house in Homestead, Florida, suffered $72,000 of damage from Hurricane Andrew. Susan was in New York when the storm struck Florida, but she quickly went down to survey the damage. It was rough then, but Susan said that Hurricane Sandy affected her much more because of the damage to the home she grew up in.
“I cried for three weeks,” she said. “I can’t imagine going through this without God. The people who don’t have the Lord are just despairing.”
Nancy agreed. “It’s still sad to this day. There’s a lot of people who have not cleared out their homes yet. I think it’s going to take quite a long time before we get back to normal.”
Island Park was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. The storm surge met the canal surrounding the island, and the water had nowhere else to go. Eleven feet flooded into the streets of the village, sending 12-18 inches into many homes.
“As fast as the water came in, the water went out,” Nancy explained. “My niece [who lives across the street] saw the water at 11:00 p.m., and the next morning it was gone. So it was in and out, 1-2-3. And it left a mess, a big mess. I’d say 50 percent of the homes are not back yet.”
But for residents such as Nancy, the community of their village is enough to keep them there.
“It’s just been a very comfortable place,” she said. “I raised my three children there, and I just love being where I am. I just hope God keeps us there for a number of years.”