Homeira Walter not only knows how to make people smile, she actually helps them do so. Now, eight months following the destruction by Hurricane Sandy in her home town of Monmouth Beach, NJ—and after eight months of reaching out to help make things right for others—Homeira has received the first Sweet Spots in Glass Award.
Created as a means of encouraging, appreciating and honoring those who show courage, strength and hope in the face of sadness and loss, the small, but emblematically powerful sweet spot award was presented to Homeira at a mid-July gathering of family and friends in Monmouth Beach.
Homeira was nominated for the award by friend and neighbor Karen Rancourt, who wrote of the way Homeira lovingly and tirelessly helped her community after Sandy left so much devastation and uprooted so many families. According to estimates, some 70 percent of the homes in Monmouth Beach were flooded, some taking in as much as eight feet of water, many beyond repair. When Homeira and her family returned to their home, even though they had no power (and would not get it back for 12 days), they saw they were among the few fortunate ones whose house had survived, and decided to help those whose homes had been flooded.
After arranging for their three children to move in with inland family and friends, Homiera and her husband Matt worked as part of a four-member community work team. Day after day, for two weeks, they would arrive at distressed homes wearing high-top boots and work gloves, carrying heavy-duty bags to remove contaminated items, lugging them out to the street for pick-up.
During the evenings, Homeira returned to her own home, often bringing with her displaced townspeople she had helped during the day. She and Matt provided four homeless families a place to stay until they could make other living arrangements. Many of their guests would bring still-edible food from their freezers, and Homeira and Matt would fire up their gas grill and feed whoever happened to be staying with them, between 20 and 25 people a day.
Every day, when not cleaning out damaged homes, Homeira would go to the local FEMA site and pick up needed bags of ice and cartons of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). Hundreds of hot English muffins with eggs and cheese, prepared by a local resident, were delivered to the late-night duty National Guards, huddled around barrels of fire for warmth.
Given her role as president of her town’s Parent Teacher Organization, and because the elementary school had been flooded with three feet of water and would not be usable for several months, Homeira was also called upon for help by the superintendent of schools.
Working with three, now-adult graduates of the Monmouth Beach Elementary School who contacted her from various parts of the country, they set up an Amazon Wish List account that included free shipping. The superintendent and the school staff drew up and posted a list of all the needed classroom supplies and materials so that people might make online donations for the Monmouth Beach School Supply List.
Homeira administered this fund, which collected over $45,000 from contributors all over the world, using her home as the delivery destination. At one point, over 600 boxes were stacked throughout her home, from floor to ceiling. A separate PTO fund that she administered accrued $78,000 in donations to help with the purchase of school supplies.
Today, Homeira may proudly wear her Sweet Spot in Glass as a pendant around her neck and find joy in its colors of turquoise, green and rose that shift and change as she moves. The colors were chosen for their emotional energies and psychological correlations with healing, hope, peace of mind and harmony of spirit, as well as for their influence on one’s ability to cope with the sadness of loss.
Many lives were made a whole lot easier because of Homeira, who clearly exemplifies the values and contributions that the award was set up to recognize. Through force of mind and spirit, she has inspired and helped others to keep the vision of hope and joy alive in the face of loss and heartache.
Homeira with her friend Carla Sabatelli of Monmouth Beach.
(Photos by Jan Logozzo)