It’s been nearly three months since Hurricane Sandy unleashed its fury on New York and New Jersey and the American Red Cross is still providing help as people try to rebuild their lives and communities.
Red Cross workers know that encouragement and emotional support are vital for community restoration. Trained Red Cross disaster mental health workers continue to meet with storm victims to assess their needs and get them the help they may need.
Day by day, storm-ravaged communities in Queens, New York are seeing public services and commercial activity restored, allowing more people to resume normal lives. However, more than 1,800 people are still living in hotels or other temporary housing. Many others are struggling financially because their workplaces were crippled by the storm. The Red Cross and its partner organizations are delivering thousands of meals a day to meet feeding needs.
Meanwhile, Red Cross nurses and counselors are increasingly seeing survivors struggling with the emotional toll. Red Cross Community Partner Services and Red Cross caseworkers are working to connect people with resources that will help them regain independence.
In Breezy Point, New York Red Cross workers help hundreds of residents every day – people who are still without electricity and water, some without homes almost three months after screaming winds, monumental tidal surges and fires ripped through this bungalow community.
Breezy Point saw heartbreaking devastation due to Sandy. More than 100 homes burned to the ground during the storm. Today the organization Stars of HOPE is working to brighten the destroyed community with hundreds of painted stars scattered throughout the oceanfront community. The non-profit organization was founded in 2007 after a tornado ravaged Greensburg, Kansas. Stars of HOPE works with schools and community leaders in a disaster-affected community to enlist children to paint inspirational words and messages on plywood stars and decorate them in bright colors.
The purpose of the stars is to bring color into a devastated area and to re-instill a sense of hope and community. Each town that receives stars then paints stars for the next town that experiences a disaster. Breezy Point received some of its stars from Minot, North Dakota and local New York school children.
“The color is such a bright contrast to the black and grey of charred homes and trees, and the ashen remains of what was once someone’s home,” said one Red Cross disaster worker. “They command your attention and deliver their messages of hope.”
More than 1,000 Red Cross disaster workers are still responding in New York and New Jersey. One of the biggest needs people have had since the storm hit is food to eat, a need which continues all these weeks later. As of this week, the Red Cross and partners have served more than 11 million meals and snacks. The Red Cross has also distributed almost seven million relief items and provided more than 110,000 health and mental health consultations.