So you’re looking to volunteer, huh? Well have we got an opportunity for you! Put on your dirty clothes and lets get to work in the Rockaways. We’ve been called a veritable “Volunteer Delta Force,” so lets explore why.
Days begin with a volunteer muster at our working nerve center and Tool Hub on Beach Channel drive. Just arriving here and meeting the pastor of the small warehouse-like church is a reward in itself. Pastor Dennis Locke has been an incredible partner of fortune for us, and any conversation with this master of metaphor is rife with both heartfelt wisdom and lighthearted humor. Once everyone has arrived and begun meeting one another we hold a short briefing on general safety, basic techniques, and what to expect in the community. Then our coordinators form teams of volunteers, all headed by an experienced and trained Team Leader, to be outfitted with tools and dispatched to work-sites. These sites are homes whose owners have been identified and prioritized by our crack assessment team.
Once out in the field the real work begins. Physical work on a scale that individual homeowners couldn’t really begin to approach on their own, and a subtler emotional support that is really the backbone of any community based volunteer effort. Out in the field volunteers work intimately with residents, picking through flood damaged belongings and gutting out flood damaged residences. It’s people helping people to pick up the pieces of a life, and with each person working, each couch thrown away, each wall pulled down, a little more healing, peace, friendship and light enters the world.
Our teams currently take water-logged basements and ground levels all the way from the initial untouched horror of a post flood disaster, to the clean and relatively manageable bare studs and exterior walls that is a gutted and sterilized home. To begin, we immediately remove large sources of mold and other foul substances from the home by hauling all the water-logged contents out to the curb. This also opens up workspace and airflow. Armed with hammers and crowbars and shovels and wheelbarrows our next step is to pull apart all the trim, drywall, flooring, insulation, and general building materials that got soaked by the storm surge that dark night. By exposing the bare framing of the house we let it begin to dry out naturally. Once the house is gutted, a mold team will return to physically scrape off the mold, chemically treat the bones of the house, and finally paint the same in order to seal out further potential toxic growth. From there the way forward is much more clear and bright to everyone.
The whole process is enriching for all involved. The beauty of strangers helping eachother, asking for nothing, is obvious to anyone who spends even a moment down here. At day’s end there is nothing but smiling faces and glowing anecdotes, phone numbers exchanged and hugs around. It is truly an inspiring sight that should be shared with as many people as possible. Few experiences can compare. So sign up, spread the word, and most of all – VOLUNTEER!