January 25, 2013

Family Voices’ Superstorm Sandy Relief Dollars are Being Put to Good Use & More Funds are Still Available

Family Voices’ Superstorm Sandy Relief Dollars are Being Put to Good Use & More Funds are Still Available Family Voices’ Superstorm Sandy Relief Dollars are Being Put to Good Use & More Funds are Still Available

This story profiles how funds were used to help Kimberly Holley of Norwalk, CT and her family. Local Family-to-Family Health Information Centers (F2F HICs) and Family Voices State Affiliate Organizations (SAOs) can apply for remaining funds on behalf of families of children and youth with special health care needs and/or disabilities who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. Please see the end of this article for information on how to apply.

When Kimberly Holley's life was uprooted by Hurricane Sandy, she turned for help to PATH Parent to Parent/Family Voices of Connecticut, which then called on National Family Voices' for support from the Superstorm Sandy Relief Fund.

Kimberly is a single Mom living in Norwalk, Connecticut with her three children: 8-year old son, Terrell, 4-year old daughter, Taliyah, and 1-year old son, Jamaal. All have asthma and allergies, including food allergies, and she needs special medicines and foods for Terrell. When their ground floor Housing Authority apartment was threatened with flooding from the Norwalk River during Hurricane Sandy, Kimberly was asleep as the  evacuation took place and woke up shocked to see the water coming in under the door. Staying there was not an option, as the power to the apartment was shut off to prevent electrocution, and all residents were asked to leave the complex.

Kimberly says:

"I had no guidance and didn't know what to do. During the hurricane everything in the apartment was destroyed - clothes, furniture, supplies, everything."

She and the children went to stay with her sister for a time, and then her mother. But she was concerned about the stress this was creating for both her mother and her kids due to limited space and conflicting schedules, and moved them to a hotel. Meanwhile, even though her apartment was uninhabitable she needed to keep paying rent there in order to hold onto the apartment.

Eventually she was told she could return to her apartment. However, the electricity was still off, paint was peeling off the walls, and there was mold and mildew in the closet. She spent two nights there with her children but her older son became lightheaded and her baby developed a cough. Kimberly started throwing up and decided they needed to leave.

She decided she needed to take extra time off from her job at a local Walmart to try to get her situation resolved and began to worry about whether this would create problems with her employment.

Later it turned out that there had been a gas leak in the apartment.

Kimberly commented:

"I've been through the worst of it with the apartment situation and confusing communications from the authorities. It's been so frustrating. Sometimes I've been so stressed I can't think. My son has been crying every day. I know my kids are worried about me and I don't want that to be creating even more stress for them."

Presently a social worker became involved in Kimberly's case. She gave Kimberly the phone number at Family Voices of Connecticut which in turn explained that the Families Helping Families - Superstorm Sandy Relief Fund of National Family Voices would allow Kimberly to get some money to help out with her situation. They applied for a small grant of funds for Kimberly, which she has used for medicine for her children's asthma and a new nebulizer machine for her son, as well as to pay for the specialized milk he needs from the pharmacy before she could get reimbursed.

Kimberly said:

"Nora and Carmina (from Family Voices of Connecticut) have stayed in touch with me by phone and text to make sure I'm ok and that my situation is getting dealt with. For that especially I am very grateful. Everything I have received has gone to help me take care of my kids."

Her apartment has now been fixed enough for Kimberly to move back in with her kids, and she has gone back to work part-time. However, repairs are still continuing. Damaged wiring needed to be replaced so it won't catch fire. Floors and walls needed to be repaired, and sheetrock replaced, to clean up mold and water damage. Understandably, Kimberly is still recovering financially as well as emotionally from the Hurricane. She said recently:

"...as a mother, I'm dealing with the situation better for my kids than for myself...I've been told that
my kids and I are all suffering from pretty significant stress....My 1-year-old just got over pneumonia. My 4-year-sits up all night. My 8-year-old has nightmares, sleep walks, and panics, saying "I can't breathe. I need to get out." So, I don't get a lot of sleep. We have been doing some counseling. And I know we are going to be ok if we stay close together so they can feel safe. I love my kids more than anything in life. I've gone back to work, but only part-time, because I'm more focused on rebuilding from this situation."

National Family Voices has provided referral for stress recovery services and is in the process of facilitating application for additional funds for Kimberly's family.

Limited additional funds are still available to provide assistance to other families of children with special health care needs and/or disabilities impacted by Hurricane Sandy through Family-to-Family Health Information Centers (F2F HICs) and Family Voices State Affiliate Organizations (SAOs).

Family Voices Executive Director Lynn Pedraza said:

"Families who were heavily impacted by Hurricane Sandy are still dealing with the situation and its aftermath. Families of children and youth with special health care needs and/or disabilities often face even greater challenges than other families in a disaster like this. We send our continued good wishes and support to all of the families who have been victims of the hurricane for a rapid and complete recovery. And we thank all the dedicated F2F HIC and SAO staff in the states affected who have mobilized to help their local families."

To find a local F2F HIC or SAO in your state visit http://www.familyvoices.org/states.

Please note:

  • Funds will only be distributed to F2F HICs and Family Voices SAOs.
  • Funds must be used for children and youth with special health care needs. Examples are: medical supplies, special foods, medicines, transportation of CYSHCN to medical/hospital facilities or family members to visit/stay with the CYSHCN or phone cards to stay in touch with family members, etc.
  • Funds may also be used for mileage for SAOs/F2F HICs to visit shelters or other locations and to pick up/distribute items.
  • Family Voices will disburse up to $250 with each request.
  • Funds will be disbursed for qualified requests on a first-come, first-served basis as long as funds are available to meet these requests. When/if Family Voices receives more requests than the available funds, Family Voices will prioritize disbursement based on immediacy of need, while continuing to fundraise for these specific requests. Please provide us with sufficient detail about your request to help us fundraise to meet your needs.
  • Receipts for all items purchased with FHF relief funds plus itemization of how the funds were used must be provided to Family Voices on the FV Hurricane FHF Relief Reporting Form

If your organization is an F2F HIC or Family Voices SAO working with families suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and you wish to apply for relief funds, you will need four documents from National Family Voices:

- Guidelines for Requesting Funds
- FV Hurricane FHF Relief Request for Funds 11_5_2012
- FV Hurricane FHF Reporting Form
- Image and Story Relief Form for Family Voices and Partners

To receive these, please email mrubin@familyvoices.org.

For more information about Family Voices please visit www.familyvoices.org,
or contact Family Voices Director of Communications and Strategic Initiatives,
Melanie Rubin,
mrubin@familyvoices.org or call 505-872-4774.