On Thursday, November 29 I had the privilege of volunteering on Staten Island for the victims of super-storm Sandy with the New York State Association of Realtors (NYSAR). Along with Bronxville-Ley Real Estate salesperson Mirjana Balac and Broker Dorothy Botsoe of Dorothy Jensen Realty, we met the NYSAR contingent at the All Hands headquarters.
All Hands Volunteers (www.hands.org) is a US-based, 501(c)3 non-profit organization, that provides hands-on assistance to communities around the world, with maximum impact and minimum bureaucracy.
After the waivers were signed and the All Hands t-shirts donned we drove to our work site for the day to meet our team leader Matt. I hadn't been out to Staten Island since the storm and I could hardly believe my eyes. As we continued toward the beach area, the houses we passed were in varying stages of collapse and damage. The house that was our project for the day was a single story bungalow that had been flooded nearly to the ceiling.
Our job entailed pulling down all the drywall, taking out the insulation, removing every screw/nail in the frame studs, and pulling up all the flooring. The remaining shell would then be sanitized and reconstruction could begin.
I don't know that I have ever worked so physically in my life. Wielding hammers and mallets, crowbars and screwdrivers, we sweat our way to taking apart a house so that it could be a home once again. Our All Hands team leader, Matt, does this for 10 hours a day, 6 days a week - and he is a volunteer. He sleeps in a church basement. He is patient with those of us who don't use heavy tools every day. And, he could use more help!
The All Hands volunteers at HQ explained that as every day passes since the storm, volunteerism wanes. Though I was part of the NYSAR team, one does not need be affiliated with a group to help out. Go by yourself, or grab your friends from your golf foursome, book club, house of worship, fantasy football league, or whatever. But just go!
The work we did was hard, very hard, but I never felt better. And I think I'll do it again.