MEET THE WELCOME HOME FINALISTS!

 

Every year, Above All Masonry (with the help of our sponsors) gives away a landscape design and installation makeover to a deserving Long Island family. This year, we've received 15 nominations! After careful and incredibly difficult deliberation, our top three finalists are ready for public voting now through October 15, 2016. The Welcome Home 2016 winner will then have their backyard transformed later this fall (stay tuned for updates by signing up to the newsletter). So go ahead, please read each finalist's story and submit your vote!  UPDATE- VOTING NOW CLOSED.

 

RAYMOND REICHEL

MARK PIROLLO

PAMELA DEMOTT


 

Please note these guidelines:

  1. Voters must have a Long Island address (sorry, we have to give our community a fair shot!).
  2. Only one vote per household address will be accepted; we will use the first vote submitted with that address and void all votes after.
  3. Did we thank you enough for contributing your time for the vote? :-)

Voting is now closed.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a vote!

 
 
 
 

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!" 

Pamela Demott

PAMELA DEMOTT, in Commack, NY.

Before we share Pamela's (Pam) story in her own words, here is a snippet of what her sister, Tiffany, has shared:

"Pamela and her daughters lost 2 members of this household. Our mom (age 76) in 2010 and her husband (age 43) in 2014. Both lost due to cancer. They cared for both of them day and night during their fights. Now they are both gone. Since their deaths with little time to grieve they have devoted their time and energy to organize a Relay for life team to raise money for the American Cancer Society. To date, they helped raise over $56,000.00. They raised money through fundraiser concerts they organized with their friends and families. Recently, Pam herniated her L5 and is currently home from work for now."

And of course, in Pam's own words:  

“Unfortunately, I got hurt in June. I was trying to get healthy for my girls and went to a trainer. He had me dead lift over 100 and I have not been able to return to work as my doctor's recently confirmed nerve damage, herniated discs, and spinal stenosis. Right now, I am in the treatment stage and exploring injections or surgery in conjunction with PT to perhaps feel better. I have constant pain, but I will not let the pain stop me. I am still living and my kids need me. It is frightening to me, but I have to believe I will get by somehow for my children. I will be losing my health benefits soon and probably my job due to my injury. But I will keep looking for jobs that will fit my life as it is now. I can only keep looking. 

My girls and I and friends and families in the community are incredibly part of our #WearPurpleForJoeyD team in honor of Joseph. Only months after he passed Taylor now 17 and Miranda now 14 wanted to honor their father and create a team to raise money so other families will have the hope of more days with their loved ones. We feel that if we can help them in some way, it will help all of us. The girls thought of a fundraising concert since them and most of their friends are singers and theater kids. We put on our first concert and at the end of the first Relay for Life we raised over $34,000.00. We did it a second year and brought our total to over $56,000.00. Without our friends and families, we could not do it. The kids on our team have learned such dedication and drive to help others without expecting anything in return.

My parents purchased this home when they were expecting me. I was born in 1970, they purchased in 1968. My mom was very attached to the home and that is why Joseph and I stayed with her. She helped raise the girls with us. The house was always ok. But of course needs work everywhere. Just the girls and I are here now. We went from 5 to 3 in the house. We have our pets and friends come by for the girls. Our neighbors take great care of us and we are never alone.

We do not spend a lot of time at all [in the backyard]. Just to put the pups out. Joe was always the grill master. So it is hard to start up the bbq without him. The girls stay in the spring with the pollen because they both suffer from asthma and allergies and have pneumonia frequently. We would love to spend time outside and watch the dogs play. Listen to music and the sound of water to relax and believe things will be ok. They can only get better from here we hope and believe.

The girls are very active in musical theater. They do plays here and NYC. They perform in NYC Cabarets and love doing fundraisers here on LI. Year after year they can't wait to start planning our next fundraiser.

[Future wise], I can still plan for this Relay for Life Season. American Cancer Society has meant so much to me. I have applied to jobs there because I want it to be my career also. I have a Masters degree in public and health administration so any business I can do. I can't sit for extended periods right now without worsening the pain. I intend on getting better. 

[For the backyard], I miss the pool. But ok with what will be. We had a gunite pool that because of erosion the plumbing and side of pool started to collapse down the hill. Joseph could not afford to fix it so he had gotten a demo permit and his friends who own a company demolished it. I remember putting on shows during our many pool party gatherings. It was always out of our financial range to fix anything. Mom was sick for 4 years and Joseph followed. We are financially strained and it is very scary right now.”

Mark Pirollo

MARK PIROLLO in Centereach, NY, is now on permanent disability due to his disease.

 

In Mark's own words, his story is:

"I used to be a Parts Configuration Manager for Four Seasons Sunrooms for many years; however, as my disease (MD) progressed, I was no longer able to do tasks that were an essential part of my job. Unfortunately, I am no longer capable of working due to the progressive nature of my disease, and am now on permanent disability, which leaves finances very tight.

I have a form of Muscular Dystrophy, a hereditary neuropathy that affects the muscles and nerves in my legs and arms. Basically, since the nerves in them don’t work, the muscles in my extremities are atrophying since there is no nerve stimulation. I have a lot of trouble walking, as a result, and my hands don’t do very well at handling or manipulating objects. When I was younger it wasn’t as bad, but this is a progressive disease that slowly and relentlessly keeps getting worse.

I have done a lot of volunteer work within my community. For over 25 years, I have coached and have also held various board positions each and every year with Central Suffolk Football, despite the fact that I often am in a lot of pain after practices and games; I feel that it is more important to instill sportsmanship, fair play, and discipline among the youth of my community. To that effect, I also coach lacrosse, and more recently, baseball again, as well, but coaching football is my true joy.

This is actually the childhood home that I grew up in. I graduated right here from Centereach HS, and after the death of my parents, took over ownership of the home with other family members. I have been a part of this community for over 43 years. [The home is] now in fair condition, but in need of many updates that my fiancée, Catherine, is slowly ticking off the to do list; she’s pretty handy. Everything works, but is a bit out of style at the moment.

I live with my fiancée, Catherine, my son, Junior and two of my (soon-to-be) stepsons, Byron and Paulie. The most common visitors are the kids’ friends, and they know they are not allowed on the deck. We also like to have holidays here, but we are always limited to just the indoors, so it gets a bit tight.

Most of my time at home is spent inside, as my back deck is really no longer safe structurally. I was out there recently, and took a step and crashed through. I was lucky this time, but really cannot take the chance of getting hurt, as I really don’t have any “cushion” to absorb any impact, and don’t think I would be able to physically recover from a broken bone. I do get out onto the fields to coach, but I would really like a haven that I could retreat to at times. Unfortunately, as a person on disability, I really cannot afford to have the work done, nor am I capable of doing it myself. Catherine is handy, but that is beyond her abilities.

I would like to be outside as much as I could, weather allowing. I really enjoy the outdoors, watching the birds, and just relaxing. I would also love to be able to have family and “framily” over, but I am not willing to risk anyone’s safety. Unfortunately, this tends to isolate me a bit, but I would love to be able to have that togetherness with those I care about for as long as I can.

My favorite [hobby] would have to be coaching. I love seeing the look on a kid’s face when they “get it” and the building of skills through hard work; I think that is a very valuable lesson for our children to learn, especially nowadays, to watch them work and come together as a team. I also enjoy working out, as I try to slow the progression of the dystrophy with various exercises that I look up online. I used to enjoy some home maintenance projects, but my hands really can’t hold onto small tools or hardware anymore. I used to enjoy walking my dog, but can no longer do that for more than about a block. There are actually a lot of things I used to enjoy that I am no longer physically capable of, which is difficult to deal with. I dread the day when I can no longer make it out onto the field to coach.

There are actually quite a few positive changes coming up. My fiancée and I just bought the house in our names. We will be getting married, and it would be awesome if the backyard were in a suitable state for this. We have been blending our families, and it has been quite the experience! A negative change coming up is that I most likely will only be able to walk for another few years; that’s a pretty hard truth to swallow, but that’s just how it is.

The most important feature would be a safe patio with a handicapped ramp. This is something that I desperately need. There are plenty of things in the backyard that I could use help with; Above All Masonry could have free rein over anything else they would want to do! I have seen your photos of completed jobs and have absolute faith in and gratitude for whatever you choose to do. I have had dreams of what this backyard could be like if I was capable of doing it myself, or in a financial position to have it done."

Mark's wife, Catherine, says, "The deck in the backyard is rotting away under his feet, and he cannot afford to replace it; it is way beyond repair. In fact, he was walking on it last week and his foot went right through it, causing his leg to plunge through and him to fall to the floor. The cost of a patio with a handicapped ramp is beyond his reach and he is not physically able to do these types of projects himself.”

We are incredibly grateful to our Welcome Home 2016 Sponsors.