Belmar taps the kindness of community to get Sandy-displaced residents back home

 Welcome-home ceremonies at the rebuilt Keefe family house in Belmar, New Jersey. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

Welcome-home ceremonies at the rebuilt Keefe family house in Belmar, New Jersey. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

Three years after floodwaters from Superstorm Sandy crashed through their houses, the last two displaced residents in one Jersey Shore town are returning home.

Teresa Keefe had almost given up at one point, but thanks to donated building supplies and a private fundraising effort, she’s now back in her reconstructed Belmar home.

“It’s amazing. It’s like the best feeling in the world,” Keefe said. “Our hardwood floors were donated, our roof was donated, our siding was donated, the kitchen was donated, countertops were donated.”

People from around the country contributed $240,000 to the rebuilding campaign — and Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty said it’s the kind of thing other Shore towns should consider to help Sandy victims who are still unable to return home.

“People got to step up and stop complaining about the federal government or state government and take their own responsibility for the residents in their communities,” he said during ceremonies Monday, nearly three years to the day after Sandy struck.

Krista Sperber, the other Belmar homeowner, said her insurance company has paid only 10 percent of her claim.

“They want us to sign off on that they’re not criminally negligent, that they didn’t commit fraud, racketeering, corruption etc. They’d also like us to pay our legal fees. That comes out to about $73,000,” she said. “I’ve refused their offer at this point.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, who attended the ceremony and toured Keefe’s reconstructed home, said he’s urging FEMA to speed the process of getting checks to residents who say they have been underpaid for their Sandy-related flood insurance claims.

“We’re going to keep their feet to the fire for every claim that has been filed, both for a determination, the access to go to a third party if they’re unhappy with the determination, until the very end,” vowed New Jersey’s senior U.S. senator.

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