Cape Gazette

Cape Region residents help Sandy survivors on Staten Island

'Welcome Delaware. Thank you for coming!'
By Patrick Irelan | Nov 22, 2012
Photo by: Pat Irelan Brad Dennehy of Milford asks for some help cleaning up the first floor of the Forster family home in Staten Island, N.Y.

Special to the Cape Gazette — It took Hurricane Sandy a week to travel from the Caribbean to the coasts of New Jersey and New York, where, three weeks after the storm made landfall, thousands of people are still trying to put their lives back together, and thousands of others are doing all they can to help them.

Suzannah Martin-Frederick of Milford and a couple of friends collected food, water, clothing and other items a few days after the storm had passed, and personally delivered them to Staten Island, N.Y. Martin-Frederick and her friends were affected so much by the devastation they saw and the need for help that they quickly planned a return trip.

On the first trip, they were introduced to Ronnie Loesch, a Staten Island resident since she was 4 years old.  Loesch’s 87-year-old mother’s house was bulldozed earlier this week and her own house is at risk of being demolished if it doesn’t pass its next inspection. Loesch did not have insurance and cannot afford to rebuild on her own. For her second trip, Martin-Frederick recruited manpower and tools to help Loesch and her neighbors start to save and rebuild their homes.

Nearly 30 volunteers gathered at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes and boarded a Juan Saez school bus headed for Staten Island at 6 a.m., Nov. 17. Ronnie Forster welcomed the group to Staten Island with a loud “Welcome Delaware; thank you for coming!”

As soon as the team arrived, they divided into groups and started cleaning up the yards and houses of the distressed residents. Some of the southern Delaware volunteers used chainsaws, shovels and rakes to remove a fallen tree and other debris as another group started to frame new walls in the basement of the Forster house, and a third crew started to remove the flooring from Loesch’s house.

By mid-afternoon, the crew had made a huge impact, and Loesch was hopeful that most of her house would be saved. “It looks great; you guys did so much!” Loesch exclaimed after touring her recently gutted house.

Some of the volunteers then moved across the street to a house that had not been touched since the storm cleared. The ceiling and all of the contents of the first floor were ruined by the eight feet of flooding and had to be carried to the street. Another group from Pennsylvania finished cleaning out the house as the Delaware team boarded the bus to return home.

Although weeks have passed and many people have put so much effort into helping the devastated area recover, there is much more that still needs to be done. Martin-Frederick plans to continue to help Ronnie Loesch rebuild her house. If anyone is interested in helping in any way, contact her at


Staten Island resident Ronnie Forster welcomes a group of Southern Delawareans who traveled to Buel Avenue Nov. 17 to help clean up and rebuild his and his neighbors' homes. (Photo by: Pat Irelan)
Ronnie Forster, left, and a member of the building assessment team inspect the framing work completed by a team of Delaware volunteers in the basement of the Forster family home. (Photo by: Pat Irelan)
Ronnie Loesch admires a camera that she recovered when she returned to her home after Hurricane Sandy had flooded it with eight feet of water. (Photo by: Pat Irelan)
Volunteers continue to provide food, water, toiletries, and other necessities to the displaced residents of Staten Island, N.Y. three weeks after the storm devastated the area. (Photo by: Pat Irelan)
A member of the National Guard carries trash from a flooded house to the street for removal. (Photo by: Pat Irelan)
A couple explains how they survived the storm surge when they realized they had to leave their home as Hurricane Sandy made landfall. (Photo by: Pat Irelan)
Southern Delaware resident Mike Schimmel gives a hopeful Ronnie Loesch a tour of her freshly gutted house on Staten Island. (Photo by: Pat Irelan)
The framing crew of (l-r) Ed Evans, Paul Camenisch, Brad Denney, Kyle Howard and Billy Huckenmeyer celebrate a successful day of rebuilding part of a Staten Island home. (Photo by: Pat Irelan)
Shown (l-r), Joan Greeley, Ronnie Loesch and Suzannah Martin-Frederick pose for a picture after a hard day's work trying to salvage Loesch's storm-damaged Staten Island home. (Photo by: Pat Irelan)
A group of southern Delaware volunteers joins residents of Staten Island, N.Y. in a collective effort to clean up one the most devastated areas from Hurricane Sandy. (Photo by: Pat Irelan)
Juan Saez of Milton donated one of his school busses, and the fuel, for a group of southern Delaware volunteers to travel to Staten Island, NY in an effort to clean up and rebuild Buel Ave. (Photo by: Pat Irelan)
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