In the midst of all the chaos, Gina’s doctors discovered a mass, and feared she may have cancer. She was told she would have to undergo surgery. On the day of her surgery, she found out not only that she was cancer-free, but that New York Says Thank You had selected them to help.
“It was a whirlwind year,” said Gina. “Through my recovery I was finalizing the plans and getting everything together to make this happen.”
The organization worked with them for months to get everything ready for the rebuild. The couple designed the new house, knocked down, and poured the foundation. Then over the course of nine days, the volunteers came in and built the new house.
“It was amazing. We have a stick-built house in six days. Not even the Amish can do it that quickly,” said Gina. “If it weren’t for these volunteers, we’d be looking at a foundation.”
After Sandy, Parness said the group pledged to help rebuild 200 homes of underinsured, active-duty New York City first responders. So far, he said, they have completed 78 homes, from Staten Island to Massapequa. But recently, he said he decided to open the aid up to Nassau and Suffolk County first responders as well.
“If we can help the first responders get home, then they in turn can focus on their jobs, which is taking care of the rest of us,” said Parness.
Charlie has been volunteering with New York Says Thank You since Sandy, helping on smaller builds in the area. He said being on this side was a change.
“It’s a humbling experience,” said Charlie. “[These volunteers] traveled 13 hours on a plane to come bang nails at my house. I’m forever thankful.”
The Sadlers said they can’t wait to join New York Says Thank You on their annual trip next year, to continue the tradition of paying it forward. Charlie said that, after working with the group, he has seen the amazing things that can be done with just some strong-willed volunteers.
“There is no word no,” said Sadler. ”Sometimes you just have to think outside of the box and figure it out. We can get anything done.”