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Hurricane Sandy Plus One Year—Volunteers Still Needed

SandyCoasterIt was a year ago today that the eastern shores of New York and New Jersey, as well as plenty of other wide expanses of land, were beaten mercilessly by nature when struck by Hurricane Sandy. It was the deadliest storm in the United States since Katrina in New Orleans, and cleanup and rebuilding efforts are still underway. As so often happens, our national attention evolves and moves on once we evolve from the stage of emergency into recovery, so, many who were not directly affected have not realized how much damage remains.

Weekends still find dedicated volunteers rebuilding, cleaning up, replanting, and recommitting to their neighbors. If you’re in the region, or visiting soon, the need for volunteers remains high–so jump in. A little sweat from a day’s hard work will do you good, and warm you against the late autumn chill. Here are just a few ways to find out how to be of good use in the storm recovery efforts:

Americorps (The Corporation for National and Community Service)—does tremendous work with post-disaster response and service. They can help you find a number of ways to be involved whether you can swing a hammer or not.

FEMA Corps—established by the office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, this partnership with Americorps is dedicated, with the efforts of 1,600 volunteers, directly to emergency response. There is a youth focus, even providing full-time housing for service workers ages 18-24, who help grow our nation’s disaster response capacity.

NYC Service—is the volunteer portal run by New York City, helping you find a project of need in response to Sandy (or any other category of volunteering you might want to explore).

New York Cares—will get you going volunteering on Sandy projects, or others in the area.

All Hands Volunteers—has to date helped more than 300 families via the efforts of more than 2,700 volunteers totaling donated volunteer hours representing nearly a million dollars.

New York Restoration Project—focuses on the green spaces and community gardens in communities of need, re-planting trees, renewing open spaces and parks, and restoring natural areas.

Hope for New York—is a faith-based organization, mobilizing hundreds of volunteers in Sandy relief efforts.


4I spent the afternoon today in a gorgeous Northern Manhattan park called Swindler Cove. The park has been one of many many success stories of the hard work of volunteers and staff of the New York Restoration Project. NYRP is an environmental care organization started by Bette Midler when she came to New York and was put out by how much trash there was and in what a sorry state the parks and community gardens were. She and friends in 1995 started taking it upon themselves to clean up green spaces in the city.

The organization now has projects with parks, gardens, and trash cleanup in many many sections of New York. Over 875 tons of garbage has been removed from parkland by NYRP teams of volunteers and staff.

Swindler Cove is the “jewel in the crown” for NYRP. It is 5 acres on the Harlem River up at the northern tip of Manhattan. Where once locals pulled over at the side of a busy road and pushed their trash bags, shopping carts, decrepit cars, and who can guess what else over the edge…is now a relaxing respite from the city. There’s a children’s garden, groomed paths through forested sections, a waterfall, art installation birdhouses, benches in the shade, and a floating boathouse where neighborhood kids and adults come to learn rowing and kayaking on the river. Birdsong and the rustle of leaves is the soundscape of what was once a de facto dump. swindler4


I was there with the US Publicist for my book, 500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference, so we could shoot some on-the-fly video of a volunteer program in the city for promotion. Bette wasn’t there (though she is in New York on hiatus from her Vegas show), but I got to interview the wonderful Angela Michie, NYRP’s Community Outreach and Volunteer Manager. Incredible work is being done in this oasis of calm as well as other parks and gardens around the boroughs. Look them up and give them an afternoon’s worth of sweat.

It makes an enormous difference–as Bette Midler believes, we all have a right to a green city, and should take on being an active partner in the “Conservancy of Forgotten Places.” swindler1