LONG BEACH, N.Y. - James Hodge was one of the first to help the Long Beach community survive after Superstorm Sandy despite having lost his own home to flooding. Since then, he has been sleeping on family members' couches and even in cars reluctant to ask for help until he was given a gift with no choice but to accept it.
"It was really traumatic experiences that I had had and not really understanding what I was going through but trying to make others happy and that kind of made me happy," Hodge said.
Work began on Hodge's home just over a month ago. It's being done free of charge thanks to a group of Jewish teens with the Orthodox Union and help from Habitat for Humanity.
"With this community, we're helping someone who helps others which makes it more special," said Andre Bigby, the supervisor of Nassau County's Habitat for Humanity.
This is part of Project Community, which is the Orthodox Union's summer initiative. The kids are hoping to raise $70,000 for furniture and appliances.
"It's about empowering Jewish teens to give back to the community, to get involved in the broader community and improve the quality of their lives," said Rabbi Ethan Katz, the national director of Teen Relief Missions.
When finished, the house will have new walls, cement, windows, electricity and plumbing. They hope to complete the work within the next six months.
"The fact that we have Habitat to partner with and help us get our hands dirty, I think it's healthy and different and makes you feel like you're doing something to give back," one organizer said.
"Especially since we've just been stuck in our houses for so long, to come out and really make a difference in someone else's life is important to me," a participant said.
Hodge, the chairman of the MLK Center in Long Beach, continues to selflessly help others. He said it will make a big difference.
"I'm truly honored for this organization helping me out and as I continue to do what I believe God has led me to do: help others," Hodge said. "I believe God is now showing me that it's time for you to helped."