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Four years post-Sandy, hope for a Union Beach family

It’s been four years since Hurricane Sandy and many Jersey Shore residents are still in need of aid. Volunteers from “A Future with Hope” helped Jennifer Capraun and her family start a new life in a brand new home.

Jennifer and her children were left with absolutely nothing four years ago. Hurricane Sandy plowed through the Jersey Shore like it was a punching bag. Once the storm subsided, the Capraun family faced the bleakest of prospects – waterlogged ruins where their home once stood.

“Everything you opened, water came pouring out. All of her belongings, everything she cherished was gone,” according to Bonnie Siegel, a friend of Jennifer’s.

During this nightmare Capraun didn’t give up any hope, she had to be strong for her children. Jennifer, who declined to be interviewed for this article, was the backbone in keeping her family together.

“She is the inspiration thorough things that she’s gone through during these years that I’ve known her, the things that happened within these four years,” her friend Bonnie related. “Most people wouldn’t of getting up everyday, so there’s something inside Jen that makes her do this.” Siegel simply saw a lot of faith inside her friend, and that makes her a hero.

But the Capraun family aren’t the only heroes during this emotional roller coaster. There are builders, construction managers, case managers, all from the faith-based nonprofit group, A Future with Hope.

Siegel and Jennifer are thrilled that the organization saw the Caprauns’ plight and took on the challenge. Bonnie says she wants more families being saved as well. Siegel said there was one gentleman who was in the progress of helping Capraun but apparently he just disappeared.

“Those stories need to get out their, four years. She needs to be in her house and these poor souls need to get into their houses as well,” Siegel said.

As I drove around Union Beach I’ve noticed that reconstruction is still far from complete. So I asked Siegel why was that the case. Her response reflected the frustration of elusive and often insufficient funding, and endless, if necessary, paperwork.

“From the top down, to the rest of the people that need to be providing money for this, to help these people do their jobs and get everyone in. Yeah, obviously it’s the town that’s holding up the inspections and getting the rest of the stuff in for her.” In the meantime Siegel said she would help as much as she can.

Bonnie and Jen have an unbreakable bond. She says that Jen is an amazing mother and woman. She wants to see the Capraun family in their brand new home.

The Capraun family will be in their new home as quickly as possible. Construction Director Rev Lou Strugala is the captain of the ship. He says he “hasn’t slept in four years.” He had to design a whole new home from the ground up.

“In process of knocking it down we realized that the best scenario was to put up a modular home of comparable size of what she had.”

Strugala and his team designed the home to be weatherproof, the house is elevated for flood insurance standards. Jennifer is able to move back in and not worry about anything said Strugala.

Construction designers thought long and hard on how to survive another hurricane like Sandy, especially living at the Jersey Shore.

“The heating system is upstairs in the attic. So in the event that this got flooded to six or eight feet, as soon as the water subsided and the gas and electric are turned back on the house can have heat.”

The water service and the sewer service is attached to the pilings and the piers. Everything is done that if a storm hits again the homeowner will be impacted as little as possible. Strugala followed all of the appropriate codes to make this home as safe.

Volunteers cutting up wood for the upstairs rooms. (Christopher Scali.Union Beach)
Volunteers cutting up wood for the upstairs rooms. (Christopher Scali.Union Beach)

“We set pilings so that the elevation is base flood elevation plus two feet. By setting the pilings up at that height, it allows a regular flood like Sandy to go through here and not effect the home itself.”

Capraun’s home is a factory built home that consists of wood so the environmental conditions are all controlled. When the home was set on the pilings it was weather tight.

Anyone living at the Jersey Shore can say that weather conditions are unpredictable. Strugala doesn’t want any Sandy victims experiencing another hurricane that leaves them homeless once again. That’s why he designed this home to withstand a hurricane similar to Sandy.

“So if we are a little bit proactive by putting the utilities inside, by raising them above flood stage. Putting the electrical service above stage, we can get these people home quickly.” Everything that makes a house function is brand new, Capraun and her children aren’t going to have to worry about a thing once they move in.

Strugala’s goal is to have Capraun move in by Christmas, her home is about 80% complete.

A Future With Hope Executives talking about the new home. (Christopher Scali. Union Beach)
A Future with Hope Executives talking about the new home. (Christopher Scali. Union Beach)

“I am shooting for Christmas, there’s nothing better than to have a family home for Christmas if at all possible. Maybe that part is a little bit selfish on my part but I like to see them home for Christmas.”

A Future with Hope has built over two hundred homes at the Jersey Shore, with the help of eleven thousand volunteers. Strugala says that he and his team won’t stop until Sandy victims are back in brand new homes.

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