From Homeless to Hopeful

July 23, 2014 • United States

Samaritan’s Purse builds a house in New Jersey for a struggling victim of Hurricane Sandy

Sandy Wagher and her mother, Eleanor Moody, struggled to find shelter as Hurricane Sandy struck the coast of New Jersey on October 29, 2012. The mother and daughter endured the brunt of the storm at the home of some friends but had to leave when they lost electricity. Sandy searched desperately for a place to stay, but all options failed.

Toms River 4“We were turned away,” Sandy said. “Then we were back in the car, and I had to keep pulling over because Mom and I were crying so much that I couldn’t see to drive.”

Sandy and her mother lived in their car for ten days following the hurricane. They stayed with Sandy’s sister for a month, but living conditions were not ideal for Eleanor, who was 75 at the time. Sandy and Eleanor decided to rent an RV for the next year, but they barely managed to keep warm throughout the harsh winter.

Sandy finally found herself at the end of her rope and knew that she needed to reach out for help. Taking a step of faith, she brought her mother to King of Kings Community Church in Manahawkin, New Jersey. Sandy shared their story with the pastor’s wife, who connected her with Samaritan’s Purse. Approximately three weeks later, the mother and daughter received our offer to build a home for them from the ground up, completely free of charge.

“Samaritan’s Purse met Sandy and Eleanor’s need because they had absolutely nothing to call their own,” said Tom Kluender, the New Jersey case manager for this rebuild project. “These were two women who had no way of recovery, if not for the generosity of our donors and the heartfelt compassion from our volunteers.”

Overwhelmed by Love

About 150 volunteers from all over the country joined forces earlier this year to help with Sandy and Eleanor’s new house. The mother and daughter bonded with the volunteers and found their generosity awe-inspiring. Sandy recalled one family that sacrificed part of their vacation to help build her home. Another group of volunteers donated $500 so that Sandy could purchase some new furniture.

“Whenever we went to the house, every one of the volunteers stopped working and greeted us and held us like their favorite family member in the whole entire world,” Sandy said. “Each and every one of the volunteers treated us with love, respect. Most of all, love.”

Sadly, Eleanor died of a heart attack on May 31, 2014, at the age of 76, before the house was completed. After nearly 15 weeks of construction, Samaritan’s Toms River 1Purse dedicated the home on July 17. More than 30 people attended the ceremony and watched as Sandy was presented a journal signed by the volunteers, a Bible, and the keys to her new house. Sandy appreciated that a staff member shared a few words in remembrance of Eleanor.

“I was so overwhelmed and very happy, and it was all so bittersweet because my mama wasn’t there,” Sandy said.
When the time came to enter the house, Sandy’s hands were shaking with excitement. Her friends encouraged her as she stepped inside the brand new home. Sandy had taken a long journey to come to this threshold, but her faith never wavered. She always knew that the Lord would provide.

“Sandy and her mother would’ve been homeless if Samaritan’s Purse hadn’t stepped in,” Tom said. “I’ve seen them go from hopelessness to hope.”

U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of disaster relief volunteers to provide emergency aid to U.S. victims of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In the aftermath of major storms, we often stay behind to rebuild houses for people with nowhere else to turn for help.

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