'I Pray That My Mom And Dad Are Smiling Down': Long Island Teenagers Team Up To Rebuild Community Leader's House Decimated By Hurricane Sandy
LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The blazing heat wave is not enough to stop the passion and commitment of more than a dozen girls on Long Island determined to help someone in need.
Smart and strong, they're rebuilding a home for a humble man who has been reluctant to ask for help.
Teen girls from Long Island's five towns in the sweltering heat are volunteering to make a difference in Long Beach, Long Island.
"It's an honor because sometimes it's hard for me to receive help, and ... I've had that issue of maybe just learning how to accept help," said James Hodge, a Hurricane Sandy victim, in an interview with CBS2's Jennifer McLogan.
Hodge leads the Martin Luther King Center in Long Beach. In the years since Hurricane Sandy, he has selflessly focused on the recovery of the poorest in need in his community.
Now it's time, says the Orthodox Union's Project Community, that Hodge finally accept some help to rebuild his home. It was ravaged in Hurricane Sandy eight years ago, a home he shared with his parents, who have since lost their lives.
"He's an amazing person, it's so great to be doing his house. It feels so fulfilling," said 16-year-old Riki Posner, a resident of Woodmere.
"Just to be unified with all different types of people, who are so incredible and just want to work together for a good purpose," said 17-year-old Sarah Leiderman, a resident of Cedarhurst.
Partnering with Habitat For Humanity, the Orthodox Union team is reaching out to find the humble and deserving.
"All they want to do is help. It's about empowering them, it's about creating future leaders, it's about fundamental Jewish values of repairing the world," said Rabbi Ethan Katz, the Director of NCSY Relief Missions.
"They are going above and beyond what we even anticipated. They have such an energy and you can see the compassion," said Myrnissa Stone Sumar, from Habitat For Humanity.
The teens are doing non-skilled labor and sharing their knowledge.
"It makes it much more of a personal purpose for us and job because it gives us something else to think about," said 16-year-old Leora Bennett, a resident of Lawrence.
"I think that it's very important for a community for all the religions to come together and for us not to be so separate," said 17-year-old Finnie Elkouby, a resident of Cedarhurst.
The teens are creating vegetable gardens, assisting in library drives, making lunches and raising the hammer to help.
"I pray that my mom and dad are smiling down and excited about this day and someone helping," said Hodge.
It will take several months to rebuild the house. The proud teen volunteers say they want to be front and center when Mr. Hodge is welcomed back into his new house.
The girls have also secured some donated land for an additional vegetable garden around the corner from the MLK Center in Long Beach.
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