"Mommy, our house is so pretty . . . look at all my toys!"
Room In Our Hearts is on a Mission to Redecorate
On March 23, 2013, Tyler Blewitt with his mom and dad entered their storm-damaged home like they have done hundreds of times since they evacuated for Super Storm Sandy. When they came back in this time, it was different. Room In Our Hearts had started early that morning to redecorate their living room. They left their home in Union Beach around 9:30 a.m. and returned hours later to a comfortable and cozy living room, complete with a special play area just for Tyler.
Volunteers from Room In Our Hearts , as well as Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon, Union Beach Borough Administrator Jen Maier, Council people and other local agencies were there to greet them as they previewed the room for the first time. It is Union Beach's version of "move that bus" quipped Assemblyman O'Scanlon.
As previewed on the website www.RoomInOurHearts.org, MEET TYLER – Part One , the storm not only ruined the first floor of Tyler's home but caused him to relapse into a stressed-induced episode of SVT. Medication and a stable environment miles away at an aunt’s house in South Plainfield, NJ has enabled Tyler and his mother Kathryn Rodgers to heal. His father, Jay Blewitt and older siblings, Christine and Dave stayed behind in Union Beach to keep the rebuilding effort moving. Jay works full-time in a family run business and returns home every evening and weekend to labor over every aspect of the reconstruction. “The cost of hiring everything out is prohibitive for them” states Katharine Koehler, Executive Director of Room In Our Hearts.” Jay has been working non-stop to put this home back together so Kathryn and Tyler can come home to live as a family again. "We were so excited to be able to offer them a space that the whole family can enjoy.”
In a nook under the stairs and behind the couch was a special space designed just for Tyler. Any five-year old would love this area complete with games, books, toys, a desk and a shelving unit to organize it all. RIOH Project Manager Theresa Carbone beamed, “It worked out perfect that we were able to incorporate a play area in the living room where Tyler could do his own thing. Since space was at a premium, that area under the stairs was such a fun place for the little guy. And he loved it immediately.”
Since it is Room In Our Hearts’ mission to redecorate one room in the homes of families who have been affected by disaster, Tyler’s family fit the criteria. “I was completely speechless when I walked in my house. My living room is absolutely gorgeous. It looks like a picture from a magazine!” proudly exclaimed Kathryn Rodgers. “We still have lots of work to do in our house, so having a room completely done is an incredible inspiration to keep moving.”
As the Executive Director, Mrs. Koehler has established partnerships with individual donors, government and local agencies and businesses to be able to provide all the necessary furniture, accessories and decor to complete each house. Monetary donations are equally important for the purchase of special items that are needed, basic tools and fuel and transportation costs. “We were lucky to have generous donors like Value City and Carpet Value Outlet of Middletown help us out with couches and rugs. Although we work very hard at trying to be as sustainable as possible by refurbishing whatever we can, there is still a need for new items.” But for the first time in over 140 nights away from home, Tyler’s family can feel some relief from the damage of Sandy and put their feet up and relax in a room that has been completely redecorated by Room In Our Hearts.