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NJ comic who lost childhood home, raising money for Sandy victims

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John Poveromo is a Toms River comedian who lost the home he grew up in to Sandy. As we approach the fifth anniversary of the super storm, there are still many people who continue to deal with the effects and need your help.

On Saturday, John is hosting a fundraiser to benefit the New Jersey Organizing Project, launched by nine Sandy survivors. The group connects and trains community members to “participate in the decision-making processes that affect their daily lives and take action for real solutions.”

Recently, the organization helped create a Rental Assistance Program, and then led a coalition of communities and elected officials to provide rental assistance to families still out of their homes. That resulted in an additional investment of $15 million to helped affected communities.

Here’s John’s story, in his own words:

“After Hurricane sandy in 2012 my parents lost their home to the storm. I can’t even begin to tell you, 5 years later, how that has affected them. I can only tell you the stress and heartache I saw my parents endure after Sandy hit is not something I’d wish on anyone. Losing your home is a heavy weight to bear and one they still deal with today both financially and emotionally.

“In January I began working with and supporting NJOP’s efforts to ensure that the victims still suffering find the help they need and assurance that if this should happen again, they won’t be going through it alone.”

“As I said above, I can’t even begin to tell you. But what I can do is provide you with a first hand account of what it was like from my mother.”

Here’s the account of what life was like following the storm from John’s mom, Laura Hanebury, also in her own words:

“It’s hard to describe how I felt after Sandy hit. I remember being in the hotel room on my iPad seeing the roller coaster in the ocean, the gas explosions at Camp Osborn in Mantoloking — all the homes on fire and no way to get help there so they had to just let them burn.

We tried to get to our house the next day but Fischer Boulevard was flooded. There was actually a 40-foot yacht in the middle of the street. That night my neighbor text me and said he had taken a kayak down our street. He had 3 feet of water in his house and since my house sat a little lower than his, I probably had the same or worse. I remember texting a friend and telling him about the water – but I didn’t fully understand what that was going to mean. I still remember repeating ‘3 feet of water in my house,’ but I realize now they were just words. They had no meaning to me.  I could not comprehend what was happened. That is still one of the most disturbing things I remember, that I didn’t understand it in my mind.

The next day, Oct. 31 we finally got there. We had to park on the street behind our house because our road was still flooded. The front door wouldn’t open because the carpet was so swelled from the water. We pushed the door and saw the wet furniture in the living room first. I was still numb. I finally cried when I saw all the boxes of our Christmas decorations turned upside down and the contents in water. Then my 45 record collection. Those are the things I can’t forget about and still get me very upset.

“Even seeing all the destruction in the house, and with my son’s friends coming to help pack things that weren’t damaged, I did not fully understand the impact this was going to have on my life.  It was three days later when someone asked where I was going to live that I lost it.  I actually felt on the verge of hysteria.  That’s when I realized I couldn’t just ‘clean up’ the mess 3 feet of water made. I had to pack to move. Immediately. No time for thinking or planning. Just time for making what turned into life changing decisions. I’ve spent my whole life planning and organizing. It’s what’s kept me sane through some hard times in the past and now I had to change everything – including my way of coping with bad situations.

Another huge hit came a few days later when I found out I couldn’t go to my office, which I’d been at for 18 years at the time, because it’s located on the barrier island that was hit the hardest.  More change, happening way too quickly, and people just didn’t understand why I couldn’t cope.

I was speaking with someone today that I just met who also lost her home.  She not only understood but she is still impacted mentally like I am.  The only people I’ve ever spoken to that “get” it are the people who were affected.”

I consider myself to be a compassionate and empathetic person.  Whenever I would see stories about people losing homes hurricanes or fires, I felt like I knew exactly how I would feel.  I was wrong.  There is no way to know unless you’ve been there.” 

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Steve Trevelise is on the air from Monday-Thursday, 7 to 11 p.m. Tweet him @realstevetrev or @nj1015.

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