RAYMOND REICHEL, in Island Park, NY is currently a police officer assigned to Grand Central Terminal in NYC.

In Raymond's words:

"I am  a volunteer firefighter for the last 27 years in Island Park. I am a former Chief and currently Capt. of the Truck Company and Chairman of the Fire Prevention Committee. I volunteer for a variety of local town events including the San Genaro Feast, and various pay it forward events that my wife and others have organized since Hurricane Sandy. 

We moved into our current home 13 years ago, the house structurally was fine but needed major updating. After being in the house for a couple of years we decided to add an addition as we were expecting our fourth child and needed the room. We also added a new deck to better enjoy being outside and to barbeque. My wife and I tried to spend as much time outside as we could but it became hard as I was working a lot of overtime and my wife was working also as a special education teacher. On the rare occasion I was off on a Sunday or Saturday night we would have family and friends over for a barbeque and watch the sunset as the kids played in the backyard.  This is one of the reasons we stayed on the south shore, to take advantage of summer nights.

I live with my wife Terry, sons Robbie and TJ and my daughters Julia and Colleen. We frequently invite my mom, in-laws, my brother and sister and their families along with friends and neighbors.  Each year we host a Labor Day party, it has become such an annual event that everyone in town looks forward to attending and afterwards watch the fireworks.

A lot of things changed for us on October 29, 2012, that's the day Hurricane Sandy hit, it changed our lives forever. Like a lot of people on the South Shore of Long Island, we were wiped out. With nearly 4 feet of water in our home we lost most of our possessions, luckily no one was hurt which was most important. Since then all of our time and resources went to rebuilding the house. While in the process we were told that our home was "Substantially Damaged" and the State required that we elevate. All the work and money put into the house was lost. Anyway, it was a long process, that still is not complete, we hired an architect, contractor etc to start the work. Last year I had to take my wife, four kids and the dog and look for a rental. We were lucky enough to find one in town so the kids didn't have to be displaced from school but it was a two and a half bedroom with one bathroom. We managed to survive that and a year later moved back to our house.

To make matters worse, in 2014 while responding to an "Office needs Assistance" call I got injured. As a result I had to have surgery and was out of work for six months while I recovered.  Unfortunately, that ate up most of our savings and as a result, all the money and time had to go to repairing the house and plans for the yard put on hold.

I had no idea how badly the yard would be damaged from the construction. The nice deck I built was gone, the neat green grass and sprinklers destroyed.  In it's place is an uneven yard filled with weeds and chunks of concrete all over the yard, that was left from the old foundation.  The yard is basically uninhabitable and as a result we were unable to have graduation and birthday parties at home. My youngest, Colleen, kept asking if she was going to be able to have her 10th birthday party in the back yard, after everything thing we've been through I wanted to say yes in the worst way, but it wasn't possible. We had also promised her that when we moved back home, she would finally be able to have her friends over to play. That also was a promise we had to break as it's just not safe. 

With no place to sit outside we no longer have barbeques, we haven't had anyone over for nearly 4 years. I miss my place to sit in the morning and have coffee and at night to watch the sunset.  Also gone is the green lawn that the kids used to play on with the dog and their friends. Summer's aren't as enjoyable as there is no place to be outside, we miss inviting friends over for impromptu get togethers on the deck. We kind of feel like hermits as summer passes us by.

One change that I hope will happen in the near future is to have a space to put table and chairs so that we can start having family dinners outside again. I would love to have a patio with an area to set up a grill with a counter top built around it and be able to sit around a table as a family.  I would also like to get my outdoor shower back that was lost after elevating.  I would really like to have a place for the kids to hang out with their friends, maybe a fire pit for them to sit around.  This was one of the upgrades were were planning before the storm.  I would also like to see my lawn return and maybe some shrubs planted as the town has lost (and continues to lose) so much greenery from the storm.

We've done so much work over the past 3 years having our house elevated, and doing virtually the entire inside over again. Our yard has really been so neglected.  Timewise and financially it's just been impossible to fix what the contractors destroyed during the house lift.  Most of the work that I would typically do myself is now made more difficult since the injury at work. While I'm not disabled from the injury, the lasting effects are still quite painful, and what used to be a rather simple project is now extremely difficult. 

We are extremely grateful to have the opportunity to participate in the welcome home program. Completing our yard and making it a happy place once again, would truly make our house feel like home again!"