As It Happens

Survivalist in New Jersey sends all of his food to Puerto Rico relief

Victoria Martinez-Barber needed to help dozens of relatives in Puerto Rico who had been affected by Hurricane Maria. That's when survivalist Joseph Badame stepped in, and donated the barrels of food he'd stored up in his basement.
Joseph Bedame poses while surrounded by barrels of food and supplies he amassed in his basement. (Victoria Martinez-Barber)

Story transcript

Joseph Badame spent decades building his house in New Jersey — and stocking it with tons of supplies in preparation for a disaster.

But when his luck ran out, and the survivalist was being evicted, he had to figure out what to do with all that stuff he'd stockpiled over the years.

It was during his estate sale that he found an answer. He met Victoria Martinez-Barber — a New Jersey woman with dozens of relatives in Puerto Rico. Where he had a surplus, she had a big need, after Hurricane Maria. 

As It Happens host Carol Off spoke wtih Martinez-Barber about her meeting and eventual friendship with Badame. Here is an excerpt of the conversation.

Victoria, how did you come to be at Joe Badame's estate sale?

The company that was hosting his estate sale reached out to me because I own a food truck to provide food and refreshments for the estate sale.

Joseph came up to my food truck and asked me about my family, because he saw that I had a sign that said all of the proceeds from sales would go to Hurricane Maria. So he asked me about my family, and he donated $100.

You have family in Puerto Rico.

Yes. So afterwards he told me well, there's food in the basement, and when you get the chance you can go downstairs and look at it and if you can haul it out of here, then it's yours... I was thinking of a pantry. I was grateful for even a can of beans.

So when I went down there, I was completely surprised and overjoyed at the amount of food that was there, because it was really life saving. There were 70 barrels of non-perishable items that my family could have.

Victoria Martinez-Barber met Joseph Bedame while she was serving refreshments at his house's estate sale. (Victoria Martinez-Barber)

70 barrels? Describe what you saw in the basement.

The basement was set up kind of like what looked like a survival basement. Each barrel weighed over 300 pounds on average, and they had rice, and canned goods, and beans and flour, and pancake mix. Just a whole host of items that would not go bad for long-term storage.

It was just relief that came over me, because I realized that it truly was life-saving. So immediately I was thinking how to get the man-power to remove all those barrels from the basement, onto my property, and then start fundraising in order to send the barrels to Puerto Rico.

Did Joseph Badame explain to you why he had all these barrels of food in his basement?

Yes, he calls himself a survivalist, and I would say he is. He was prepared for a catastrophe and Joseph has had a lot of misfortune in his life... He and his wife were away in Tunisia for two years in the peace corps. When they returned they returned to the Camden Riots, so a lot her family lost their homes.

Since then, he wanted to prepare for something that he could help them, because they wouldn't prepare for themselves. So he started the 8,500-square-foot compound, I would call it, to have shelter for his family if they were ever in need again.

Barrels of food and supplies in Joseph Bedame's basement. (Victoria Martinez-Barber)

And this was the house that the estate sale was (for). Did he have another plan for what to do with all this food?

No, he did not. He was very depressed over losing the house and especially the food, to see all the food go to waste. And that's when what I called divine intervention (happened), where he and I met.

Because he had a greater purpose on this earth, and he was preparing for his wife and his family, but it's going to help an entire town in another part of the country. So it's just amazing.

And how will you get all that food to Puerto Rico?

So the food is going, the first shipment already went out today, and it was through a private airline, it's 40 barrels. The second shipment will go by boat, and that will be in about two to three weeks. We're working already on the second shipment.

How many people do you think it's going to feed?

I'm confident to say that it's going to feed the entire town. We touched base with a church out there to distribute it out of the church, and I'm going down there from Oct.11th to the 19th to help distribute more goods. So I would say that it's going to feed well over 100 people.

Joseph Badame helps during a food truck fundraiser for the people of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on Sept. 29, in Medford, N.J. (Elizabeth Robertson/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

Could you have imagined that when you went to that estate sale to sell refreshments and maybe make a few hundred bucks that you were going to come with enough food to feed a village?

No. It gets me choked up, because Joe and I live two minutes away from each other, and I've never known this man. I've known him for maybe two weeks now, and he's such a giving person. He's losing his home, and he's still giving.

What is going to happen to Joe Badame? He's being evicted, isn't he?

Yes, so his house has been foreclosed on. He did purchase a mobile home. And when we were talking about getting the food out of there, we started sharing — it was almost like an instant connection — so we started sharing our lives with each other, and I did ask him where he would go after his house has been foreclosed. He said he wasn't sure, and he had a mobile home.

And I said why don't you bring it to our property, and plug in, and stay there forever? So he's with me now, and I think that we provide each other something that we need. He doesn't have any children, and my father passed away when I was a young girl.

Victoria, this is a truly amazing story.

Yes, it really is, it definitely restored my faith.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Victoria Martinez-Barber.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.