With help from the American Red Cross, volunteers from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and other organizations are working to rebuild Long Island homes damaged by Superstorm Sandy, and are making their own temporary home on a Long Island college campus as they do the work.
A building once used to accommodate students at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) in Central Islip now houses Sandy recovery volunteers from all over the country at the Long Island Disaster Recovery Center.
In March, the Red Cross announced a grant award of nearly $600,000 to the Health & Welfare Council of Long Island. Funding is being used to house up to 150 volunteers at any given them at the Long Island Disaster Recovery Center and to coordinate nonprofit and volunteer efforts.
Volunteers live in single-sex, dorm-style rooms with bunk beds, air conditioning and communal bathrooms. The center also includes office space, meeting rooms, and a kitchen where volunteers from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief prepare meals for the teams.
During the day, volunteers help repair homes across Long Island that were damaged by Sandy. Their work may include hanging drywall, painting, installing flooring, and other construction activities. They come back to the recovery center at the end of the workday to enjoy a communal dinner.
The Disaster Recovery Center receives different volunteer groups every week. In mid-July, the center hosted volunteers from Summit Trace Church in Frederick, Maryland. The church sent a group of volunteers last summer as well. At that time, they slept on cots in an un-air-conditioned gymnasium of a local church. Men and women were separated by room dividers that ran across the gym.
Rob Downs and his 16-year-old son, Sam, were two of the volunteers from Summit Trace Church. The father-son duo gave up their family vacation to volunteer for the Sandy recovery effort. Sam, who has been on volunteering trips to several third-world countries, said he enjoys helping others. “I really like volunteer trips. It’s something I always look forward to each summer, which is why I came back to Long Island,” Sam said.
“The gym had no bathrooms so our volunteers used porta potties and shower trailers,” Rob said. “They also ate canned food outside because there was no kitchen to provide hot meals.”
Sam agreed, “Last year, conditions were rough. This year’s living situation is great.”
The father and son are grateful for the housing facilities funded by the Red Cross. “Housing arrangements like this make it easy to be out here,” Rob said.
Click here to see a photo gallery of the space volunteers from across the country live, relax, and sleep while repairing Sandy-damaged homes across Long Island.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org/li or visit us on Twitter at @LIRedCross.