When Hurricane Sandy swept through the tri-state area nearly two weeks ago, I was in the Bronx with my family and by the grace of god unaffected by the wrath of damage Sandy left behind for so many. On November 10th, I ventured out to the Rockaways to volunteer my time to help those affected. Now that I had a day off from work after transportation was restored I didn’t feel right just hanging out at home while folks were still without their basic necessities.

My Saturday morning began at 8am. LaTonia Phipps, her roommate Alex, and I commuted to our mother church of The Rock Church branch located in Queens. (We took two trains) Once at Church we all prayed together and folks loaded up their vehicles with supplies and donations. All the cars were full so Tonia, Alex and I hopped on the Bus to the Rockaways.  So after a long bus ride, around 10am we arrive. (See the video below)

We separated into groups and walked around knocking on doors. Many houses were vacant and they ones that weren’t we asked folks if there was anything we could do to help.

Knocking on doors

We were asked to help clean out homes, backyards, throw away damaged goods, etc. We prayed with folks and gave out many hugs. I had no idea that two weeks after the storm folks still had no heat, no lights, non working restrooms and so much damage. It felt great to be there.

Latonia praying with a young woman who’s house we helped clean up.

While in Rockaway I called my good friend Amanda Reynolds. She was a lifeguard at the Rockaways for many summers and I know that this is/was her home away from home. As she took me down to what used to be her shack where the lifeguards convened, she was so excited to see that her shack was still standing. (Most were torn away)  She’s been going to the Rockaways to volunteer since the day after the storm and I was able to get a real tour/sense of what has been happening. (Things I didn’t hear in the news). She told me stories on how her surfer friends were on their boards on the streets swimming to save folks who were trapped in their homes when a fire spread in one section of the Rockaways.

Amanda drove us around and I snapped as many pictures as I could. We then went out  to Breezy Point to help clean her friend’s parents basement. The water in their house rose to the 2nd floor. The basement was completely damaged. We got in there and hammered down the walls, took apart the drywall, and shoveled out water and debris.

I can’t even describe fully what it was like to be there. It’s something you must experience yourself! I wrote this blog in hopes to encourage any and everyone reading this.  If you have any extra time on your hands– go out to the Rockaways or Staten Island, or New Jersey and lend your helping hand.  There is still so much work to be done to rebuild these communities. Once the sun goes down, and the volunteers leave, the Rockaways can get pretty scary. It felt like a scene out of “The Walking Dead”. As we drove away, in Broad Channel there was a huge boat in the middle of the street with a sign that read: Broad Channel: Forgotten Town. I left there feeling so thankful and blessed. I was exhausted, my body was sore but when I got home and took a hot shower I appreciated it so much more than I ever have! My prayers are with all those families I met and helped and all those I didn’t have a chance to. 

See some of the pics I took below..

One of the several garbage piles thorough out Far Rock

Construction Trucks cleaning up

Taking pictures of what we were seeing..

This is what we saw inside this business..

Someone’s porch..

Latonia Phipps and I.. with our #workgloves on ready for war!

The entrance to a man’s basement..

The inside of it..

Alex getting her yard work on.. 🙂

All the dogs we saw were so scared. They were clearly traumatized by the storm.

Amanda showing me whats left of the board walk

The Boardwalk..completely stripped

Who knew mother nature could do this to concrete.


Some of the boardwalk that was left.

Amanda’s Shack

She was so happy to see her shack still standing.

Amanda Reynolds and myself

Destroyed Car

Aftermath from the fire

This sign gave me a glimpse of what must be going on here.. :/

Group photo with these amazing ladies

Definitely a blessing from god to be able to do this work. Look at the cross in the background


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One response »

  1. Lyric says:

    thanks or all you do celi!

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