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Students help repair homes damaged by Sandy

SPRINGVILLE, Staten Island — Staten Island homeowner Leona John is finally getting the much-needed repairs to her Springville home badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy.

“I haven’t used my bathroom in many years,” she told PIX11 News. “Can you imagine now getting to bathe downstairs instead of schlepping upstairs to the kid’s bathroom.”

Despite widespread damage throughout the entire first floor, John and her two children have managed to stay afloat for over five years.

The sounds of drilling and hammering are music to their ears.

The construction crew on the scene is part of a workforce training program with the organization Rebuilding Together NYC – which provides aid to low-income New Yorkers that range from the elderly to survivors of natural disasters.

The workers are all unemployed or under-employed apprentices, learning about construction while helping out a fellow New Yorker.

The program has already helped out dozens of families with impressive renovations.

“I’m learning a lot about home building you know like home renovations and stuff,” worker Hakin Harper said. “I could actually take that stuff back and actually do my own apartment.”

When the work is done, the homeowner is left with a safer, more livable home and the workers walk away with valuable skills that will come in handy after the next natural disaster.

“There’s a lot of people who need those jobs,” Kimberly George, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together NYC, told PIX11 News. “We’re able to bridge that gap between unemployment and a successful career in construction.”

While it’s hard for some to imagine that families are still trying to recover from Superstorm Sandy, the John family’s story, according to George, is more common than you think.

“Every home has a different story,” George said. “You know certain government programs have a lot of criteria and certain homeowners aren’t eligible for those programs.”

The workforce training program is a one that John calls an absolute blessing. ​