More than a year after Sandy hit, many residents are just now able to return home, thanks to Habitat for Humanity.

Ilya Hemlin, Townsquare Media NJ

Elmer Lamberson, a Vietnam veteran and lifelong Union Beach resident, said Sandy completely destroyed his home.

"I stood in water up to my waist for about three-and-a-half hours," said Lamberson. "It (Sandy) destroyed the foundation, so it had to be torn down."

Thanks to a chance sighting of Habitat for Humanity applications at a municipal center, Lamberson is the first person in Union Beach whose home has been completely rebuilt by the organization. However, Habitat for Humanity has already assisted in renovating 60 other area homes ravaged by the hurricane.

Lamberson's home was the first scheduled rebuild, and it should be move-in ready by February. Work began in October with a visit from former president Jimmy Carter, as part of the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project.

"I got to hold his hand in a prayer meeting; it was a real experience," said Lamberson. "He's a great man, he's helping people like crazy, he's trying to put the word out that there's still a lot more work to be done."

Kate Nelson, volunteer coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Monmouth County, says there are several more rebuilding projects in the pipeline for Union Beach, with a goal of 100 rebuilding or renovating projects in 2014.

"What we're trying to do is grow our affiliate in general, so that we can move onto neighborhood revitalization programs and build more affordable housing," said Nelson.

Lamberson, who is currently housed at Fort Monmouth, is thankful for the project. He said Habitat for Humanity's immediate help was vital.

"I finally got passed for the $150,000 grant a month ago, after I already had this done because I couldn't wait on the (federal) government," said Lamberson. "They take too long. I needed a sure thing because I have no place to go."

Lamberson's home is being built through donations and volunteer labor, in addition to money from his insurance company. The house, which conforms to the newest flood standards and is energy-efficient, will cost Lamberson roughly $200 a month, with a total renovation price tag just over $100,000.

Any resident needing renovation or rebuilding help from Habitat for Humanity can get application information through the organization's website.

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