Volunteers rehab Sandy-stricken home

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A Canarsie man got an early birthday present on April 27 when a team of volunteers renovated the home he and his wife share just days before his 75th birthday.

Rebuilding Together NYC, a housing rehabilitation organization, spent two months redoing Bernard and Maybelle Robinson’s home, fixing flooding damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy, installing wheelchair ramps, and removing clutter that had amassed in the elderly couple’s 103rd Street house over the years.

The result stunned the whole family.

“When they saw it, they did the happy cry,” said their daughter Belinda Robinson. “I just walked in and I lost it — I was so amazed.”

Removing clutter opened up entire rooms of the house, Robinson said. There was one room in particular that Robinson said she had not been inside of in more than a decade because it was so full of junk. Her 11-year-old daughter, who lived in the home until 2012, had never passed the threshold.

“She just knows it as the mystery door,” Robinson said.

Volunteers repaired drywall, installed a new hardwood floor, and built wheelchair ramps so Robinson’s mother can navigate the home with greater ease, said Rebuilding Together director Stephen Dundon.

The group mobilized a force of about 350 people to rehabilitate nine homes in Canarsie this year, he said. They also painted two neighborhood murals and put a fresh coat on area fire hydrants, Dundon said.

The project took about two months, but workers did the bulk of the rehabilitation over the weekend after Rebuilding Together put the homeowners up in a hotel, said program manager Jennifer Terry.

Now the Robinsons are settling back in to their home, and Belinda says she couldn’t be more thankful to the volunteers who helped her parents.

“It’s amazing that they used their time to help a family they didn’t know,” she said.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
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