As a Boy Scouts of America cubmaster and a member of the Long Island Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Joe Spaccarelli is no stranger to giving back to the community. In October 2012, right after Superstorm Sandy hit, the longtime volunteer, dedicated father and Long Island resident found a way to become even more integrated into his South Setauket neighborhood by volunteering with the American Red Cross on Long Island.
After Spaccarelli and his family were spared the worst of Sandy he decided to step in to help with recovery efforts in Suffolk County. His first role with the Red Cross was as assistant manager at the Mastic Beach distribution center, located in a community center. “I ran that site,” he said, “doing bulk distribution for a couple of weekends.”
He recalls this as a difficult time. “People coming to the community center were looking for whatever they could to get themselves and their families back on their feet,” Spaccarelli said. He added that his conversations with Sandy survivors helped him understand and empathize with them, and that, through small actions, such as giving out hot meals and chatting, he was able to help families. “It was great to see how you can really make a difference in somebody’s life that way.”
After the Sandy response, Spaccarrelli continued volunteering with the Red Cross, whose humanitarian mission he had come to identify with. He responded to a number of multiple dwelling fires in Coram and Northport, Long Island; participated in a search and rescue operation in Deer Park, Long Island; and volunteered as an emergency response vehicle driver.
After months of training, Spaccarelli now works monthly shifts as a Disaster Action Team responder and shelter manager. His work is not limited to Nassau and Suffolk counties; when needed, he responds to incidents outside of Long Island. In mid-March, when a gas explosion in East Harlem left eight people dead and hundreds displaced, Spaccarelli answered the call for help managing the Red Cross shelter, where the organization provided assistance and solace to the grieving community.
He cited his over two decades of experience in business and events management—Spaccarelli works at Motorola Solutions in sales operations, making sales teams more productive and efficient—as a major influence in helping him coordinate disaster relief responses.
“People might think it sounds funny,” he said, “but producing events in the corporate event space and working for the Red Cross are one and the same. Many things are similar—the flow of information, the things that pop up at the last minute. You need to adjust on the fly.”
Through his volunteer work with the Red Cross, Spaccarelli feels he has gained insight into his community. “The number of New Yorkers that spontaneously volunteered was amazing,” he said, “especially in the aftermath of Sandy.”
Spaccarelli describes the Red Cross as an organization that is there when it matters most. “The Red Cross helps local communities by making volunteers like me feel fulfilled in their mission, helping people in desperate moments, and taking care of those communities,” he said. “It makes sure people affected by disaster are able to get back on their feet. I think that mission is just incredible.”
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.