Elizabeth Burke Beaty exudes infectious positivity, a trait that may puzzle some in light of the circumstances she’s faced over the last 10 months.
Superstorm Sandy destroyed her family’s Long Beach Island home and most of their possessions, but they found something else: community.
“Immediately [after the storm], we figured out what had to be done. With Jetty, Waves for Water, and local surfer friends, we literally got up and started organizing,” she says. “We have the most amazing friends. Community that was build so tight. Constantly there for each other.”
Community quickly mobilized
Burke Beaty, her husband, Tom, a surfer and an Alliance for a Living Ocean board member, and local friends collaborated in an effort that resulted in the quick gutting of 200 homes, something that was accomplished during a time of personal shock and grief for many of those assisting.
“That’s the whole ‘we’ part of a community,” she says, adding that if that mentality spread everywhere, “things could be totally doable.”
Earlier during a breakout session at Tuesday’s “Ready for Next Time? Rethinking the Shore after Sandy” forum at the St. Francis Community Center in Long Beach Island, Burke Beaty explained the current “we vs. me” divide, saying that it was all “we, we, we” after Sandy, but when the rebuilding process started to progress, it became “me, me, me” for many.
But not for her core of year-round LBI locals.
After living in five places since evacuating the five-acre Long Beach Island Trailer Park in Holgate, a colorful, tight-knit community of 142 mobile homes that was destroyed and has since closed, thanks to friends who helped fix another Holgate house so they could rent it, Burke Beaty’s family now has a long-term rental.
Off-season rentals needed
But she says that many locals on Long Beach Island are still desperately seeking housing for the upcoming down season.
“I have friends in the support group that I started that have nowhere to go live come the fall — they’re living in their gutted houses in Beach Haven.”
So she’s hatching a traditional grassroots, word of mouth plan to “match people who have homes with people that need homes,” she succinctly articulates.
“There are some good people out there that are willing to let people live in their homes. I want to try to match those two,” she says. “I think some of the people who have been fortunate enough to fix up their summer homes should house those people.”
Her optimism is driving her hope that in the waning days of summer, friends will find housing.
Lost everything, but grateful
As for Burke Beaty, her husband, and their three-year-old, Tommy, they’re grateful despite having no homeowners or flood insurance on their trailer that sat on trailer park owned land.
“We lost everything, but how much could you lose in a trailer? I’m not belittling it, but we live very simply on purpose,” she emphasizes.
And with island living, the Outer Banks native says, comes extreme risk.
“I knew living on a barrier island, this was going to happen eventually. Not shocked.”
But helping others has enriched her life, she adds.
“I honestly like my life better here now.”