Monday, November 19, 2012

The Meaning of Service Post-Sandy: AmeriCorps Members Reflect

Members of the New York Juvenile Justice Corps have been key to the volunteer efforts in Red Hook, one of the New York City neighborhoods hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy and home to the Red Hook Community Justice Center, our AmeriCorps' program's home base. Here is their story in their own words:

Gregory Mason:  I was really excited about being able to give of my time and not looking for nothing in return, I mean it just touched my heart to see the relief on people faces when I delivered the packages to 
them. I never in my life would had thought that it would be so fulfilling doing volunteer work and seeing how many people came out to help. I always had love for people no matter who they are and to be apart of something so wonderful is a blessing, and I'm proud to be an AMERICORPS member.

Danny Conyers: On Wednesday October 31st, a day after hurricane Sandy I came to Red Hook seeing the damage it had taken. After seeing the devastation left behind by the storm I knew there would be a lot of work to be done. Residents lost power, heat, and running water by the storm but manage to stay calm and work together during the struggle. Volunteering with Red Hook Justice Center, the National Guard and other community based organizations we manage to serve over 500 residents daily with food, water and other supplies. Making home deliveries to home bond residents, walking up 14 stories in the dark to residents who couldn’t leave their homes because of medical reasons or didn’t feel safe coming out of there apartment. The relief effort was a lot of work but worth it, as residents managed to get what they needed till things are restored. Volunteering during the aftermath of the storm it felt good to serve the residents in this time of need.

Salam Mustafa: Moving to New York from California was an adjustment for me and I did not know what to expect from New York and the AmeriCorps experience. I had only been in the Big Apple for a few months when Hurricane Sandy hit the Tri state area. I was lucky enough to not lose power or water but many New Yorkers were not as lucky. From the television and radio, I heard reports of fires destroying neighborhoods and families displaced with nowhere to go. It wasn’t till I got the call from Viviana that the AmeriCorps members were going to Red Hook to help the National Guard. As part of the volunteer efforts we helped distribute food and water, and make home deliveries to the elderly and disabled. It was very gratifying to see the warm response from a community and to be greeted by huge smiles and sometimes even hugs.Though many were without water or electricity, our emergency meals and outreach comforted them in the sense that they were not going to be ignored and it helped raise community morale among all residents of Red Hook.  For me personally, I was humbled by the experience and proud that I was able to be part of history and contribute my efforts to help New Yorkers get back on their feet.

Rebecca Schwartz: Volunteering in Red Hook and at other sites after Hurricane Sandy was an eye opening and heart warming experience. Prior to volunteering in Red Hook, I sat paralyzed in front of the news watching my city shut down and be overwhelmed. It was very painful to watch but feel helpless in the face of such tragedy so close by, so I jumped at the opportunity to help. The differences between those in the National Guard and each other group of volunteers diminished and we were just people working together to be stronger than we each could be individually. It was wonderful to be surrounded by other individuals who wanted to help as much as I did, and I think we were all inspired by one another to get as much as we could done.

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