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Jackie and Michael Terefenko Wouldn’t Be Back Home without RREM

Jackie and Michael Terefenko Wouldn’t Be Back Home without RREM

Jackie Terefenko: “We came out smelling like a rose. And that’s the truth.”

Visit: October 23, 2015
Stafford Township, NJ

Jackie Terefenko is a fighter. The events of October 29, 2012 didn’t change that.


Jackie’s husband Michael purchased their bayside Beach Haven West bungalow in 1964, and in it, they raised their children. Decades later, as Superstorm Sandy approached the Jersey Shore, they evacuated to higher ground.


Returning two days later, the home they cherished was filled with 48 inches of muck, sand, and saltwater. Saving what they could of their personal affects – dishes, decorations, and family heirlooms – Jackie relied on the support of her friends in those first days (and, truthfully, for the rest of the days until she and her husband rebuilt). The Terefenkos were devastated – but not defeated. It was time to get to work.


Their first floor uninhabitable, a local nonprofit assisting Sandy survivors, START, was able to replace gutted walls with sheetrock and install subfloors that allowed the Terefenkos to return home while they awaited resources to rebuild. Jackie and Michael hunkered up on the second story of their home, occupying the upstairs bedroom and bathroom. This is where Jackie became known for her dinners, cooked on the countertop of her bathroom with a toaster oven – just one of many feats of resourcefulness that Sandy survivors know so well.


As soon as the State announced the opening of the RREM Program, offering up to $150,000 in grants for the reconstruction, rehabilitation, elevation, and mitigation of homes damaged by Superstorm Sandy, the Terefenkos applied. Through the journey of rebuilding, Jackie met her Housing Advisor, Judi Barrett, at the Ocean County Housing Recovery Center in Lakewood. Judi would be a source of sound guidance for the Terefenkos, as well as a friend, as they moved forward in the program.


After signing their RREM grant agreement, the Terefenkos hired SMP Remodeling to repair structural damage that left their front wall caving in and a gutted first floor. They would also elevate the house 14 feet to ensure they would never have to suffer a repeat of what occurred that October 2012 day.


In a testament to the comradery of New Jerseyans, especially after Sandy, the Thanksgiving of 2013 was particularly memorable. A complete stranger, Jennifer Oddo, cooked an entire Thanksgiving meal and brought her own table, chairs, and dishes, allowing Jackie and Michael to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner in the midst of their reconstruction. They feel forever indebted to the neighbors that rushed to help them in a time of need.


During August 2015, construction was completed on the Terefenko’s home. The RREM Program was able to provide the funding to rehabilitate and elevate their home of 51 years. Jackie and Michael now utilize a platform lift, generously funded by the Salvation Army, Ocean County Long Term Recovery, and Catholic Charities to ascend 14 feet into their newly renovated home, adorned with many of the decorations and trinkets that Jackie and her friends were able to salvage.


“We wouldn’t be here without the RREM program. We wouldn’t be back home,” said Jackie.


In October 2015, three years after Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Deputy Commissioner David Reiner joined Catholic Charities, Salvation Army, SMP Remodeling, and Housing Advisor Judi Barrett in officially welcoming the Terefenkos back home. Jackie, celebrating not only her recovery from Sandy, but also remission from cancer, summed it up best: “This was the hardest, most difficult thing we’ve ever gone through in our lives – and we came out smelling like a rose. And that’s the truth.”



For more stories like this one, please visit Spotlight on Recovery.