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6 Things to Know about National Service and Hurricane Sandy

by Sandy Scott
While Hurricane Sandy showed nature at its worst, the response showed human nature at its best.  The courage and resilience of survivors was an inspiration to the nation. And the outpouring of compassion by volunteers from the local community and across the nation has been critical to the region’s recovery.  
National service members from AmeriCorps and Senior Corps have played a vital role in responding to the storm and managing this large scale volunteer effort.   On the one-year anniversary, here’s 6 things to know about the national service response:
A line of FEMA Corps members help unload supply trucks in Far Rockaway, NY.1. Speed:  In the immediate aftermath of the storm, AmeriCorps crews from across the country streamed in to the East Coast to operate emergency shelters, provide food and water, repair and rebuild homes, and lead other volunteers.  Altogether, more than 3,800 members have responded in the past year, providing hope and help to hundreds of thousands of survivors.
Washington Conservation Corps Crew Leader Ernest Farmer explains Hurricane Sandy clean-up locations and strategy to CNCS Senior Advisor for Disaster Services Kelly DeGraff and CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer at the VRC in Brigantine, NJ.2. Leadership:  Using the lessons learned from Katrina, Joplin, and other disasters, AmeriCorps members have provided critical leadership to support more than 30,000 Hurricane Sandy volunteers.  They made sure volunteers were registered, deployed, supervised, given safety training, and assigned to help residents most in need.
AmeriCorps members remove debris from a crawl space at a home in Atlantic City, NJ.3. Muscle:  Ripping out damaged floors, mitigating mold, hauling debris, and gutting homes is hard and dirty work.  But it’s essential for homeowners to get back on their feet.  This past year, AmeriCorps teams have helped residents muck and gut more than 3,700 homes.
FEMA Corps Brittany Bieber talks with Melanie Green whom lived in a neighborhood hit by a tornado on May 20, 2013.4. Innovation: More than 400 members FEMA Corps, our new partnership between FEMA and AmeriCorps NCCC, deployed to New York and New Jersey after Sandy.  They provided more than 400,000 hours of service and proved the value of this new model.  They also helped FEMA innovate the way it does business.  FEMA Corps members piloted a new technique of going door-to-door with iPads to sign up disaster survivors for benefits, making the process easier and more efficient.  That process – called Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams – has already been put use in Moore, OK and other disasters.
CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer with AmeriCorps members at the VRC in Brigantine, NJ5. Partnerships:   National service is grateful to the hundreds of national and local nonprofit organizations, conservation corps, faith-based groups, and corporate and foundation partners who have banded together to respond to Hurricane Sandy.
AmeriCorps members working with Habitat for Humanity pose with a homeowner in Staten Island, NY, who received repair assistance during the project.6. Hope:   The physical improvements AmeriCorps members have provided are very significant. But national service and volunteers has provided something else harder to put a dollar figure on but no less important: an enormous emotional lift.  As one New Jersey Sandy survivor said about AmeriCorps, “You do not merely assist in the removal of storm debris.  You help a person to move forward and to become empowered to rebuilding their own life.  What you each did for me was more than mere help with the removing of storm debris.  You acted as family and I shall be forever grateful to each of you.  You helped me to see that I can move forward.  I extend to each of you my most sincere appreciation and gratitude.”
The volunteer response in this first year has been heroic. The survivors of Sandy are on the road to recovery, and the region will come back stronger and better than before.  We know there is much more work to do.  Volunteers will continue to play a vital role, and CNCS will look for additional ways to support the recovery.
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