Moving forward and looking back.

It’s January 6th and the holidays already seem like a distant memory. Some of us spent time with far flung family and some of us relaxed in NYC, but we were more eager to get back to work than we would have been at any other job.

One of the best things that happened over our break was that one of the families we’ve worked with the longest is one step closer to moving home. They’ve started to rebuild! We’re excited that they took all the necessary steps to rebuild safely and that we were able to provide them with the support they needed to do that.

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We can’t tell you how excited we are, and it makes us reflect on how much progress community relief efforts have made across the board. One of the things grassroots groups are so good at is helping people who might otherwise fall though the cracks. It’s important work and we’re happy to do it.

Of course, we couldn’t do this work without you, and we want to share these successes because your support makes it all happen!

With so much going on all of the time, it’s also good to look back on how far we’ve come since the storm. On that note, we’d like to share with you a little photo timeline of the stages we’ve been through since the storm, so you can have an idea of what the work you support looks like, from beginning to (almost!) the end.

Please share this post with others who would like to participate in these efforts, but who cannot make it down to volunteer. Anyone can be part of this efforts! Check out our slideshow below, and pass on our Indiegogo Campaign to get 250 families displaced by Sandy home safe.

Respond & Rebuild in the News

Roadside debris, 5 weeks in. Progress.As the weeks roll on (and we can’t believe there have only been 5 of them so far!) Respond & Rebuild has been getting some more great press. Since we last updated the site, we’ve been mentioned in an article published by Raycomm Media that reached about 40-some-odd outlets, and says great things about our early work. You can check out the article here. And if you’d like to check out the author of the piece, Ray Downs, follow him on Twitter at @RayDowns.

Occupy Sandy gets some great press here, in a video from New York’s Daily News, and Respond & Rebuild’s own Gabriel Van Houten has a quick cameo appearance in front of the YANA Community Center in Rockaway Park.

Last but not least, we got a quick shout out from this Gotham Gazette piece, which features two of our speakers from our mold education events in the Rockaways, Coney Island, and Staten Island last weekend. The four sessions we held were the first of their kind in the area, and each meeting was full of residents wondering about health effects of mold, how to get rid of it, and how to know if homes are safe. Bloomberg is under a bit of fire recently for not addressing the health risk sooner, and Respond & Rebuild is gearing up to build our capacity to address this threat to public safety. As far as we can see, Respond & Rebuild is the only group offering trusted mold remediation services for free in the Rockaways, despite the fact that many Sandy-affected families are experiencing extreme financial hardship and found themselves under-insured when Sandy hit home. Currently, we are discussing ways that we can train neighbors to train neighbors in inexpensive but reputable methods for treating mold in flooded homes, in as many affected areas of NYC as possible.

Last but certainly not least, we have some exciting projects in the works and we want you to stay updated. We know you want to be informed as we launch a full-on mold offensive! If you haven’t yet, please follow our official Facebook page and also check out our first video. (Thanks to Nick, April, and Lemia for all their help on this!) There’s more good news to come, so stay tuned.


So much to be thankful for

This holiday season has given us so much to be thankful for, it’s almost overwhelming. All of us have friends and families to thank, for both supporting our work and supporting our well-being in so many ways.

There have also been those who have surprised us: strangers who offered in-kind donations both to us and Occupy Sandy. Some have heard about our work, both strangers and friends, and have helped contribute monetary support to keep us going. Some have come by our job sites with bagged lunches to keep our volunteers well-fed while in the field. Some have offered up spaces in their living rooms to store tools until we could get them down to our work sites in affected areas. Some have donated tech skills and help with coordinating our databases. Some have held fundraisers or passed hats so we could get the supplies we needed as soon as we needed them. Pastor Dennis, who opened up his church to us to use as a staging ground for dispatching volunteers. Sal Lopizzo from Yana who has provided us with space, rides home, encouragement, and reminds us that we are never alone. (He also is great at hugging.)

We also would like to thank the great people at Liberty Bar in Seattle who let some ex-New Yorker friends there hold a benefit to support our work, and also the fine folks at Jimmy’s Diner who have helped keep us fed (and so well!) on long days when we have no time to fend for ourselves.

A special thanks this weekend to Edge Auto Rental who donated use of a 15 passenger rental van to Respond and Rebuild for 10 days, which helped us to make the most of the hundreds of volunteers who have been coming out for this holiday weekend. Without support like this, we’d have a much more difficult time effectively coordinating the enormous amount of volunteer motivation we’ve seen in the Rockaways.

One more big thanks goes out to our friends at All Hands Volunteers for inviting us out to their project site in Staten Island for Thanksgiving dinner. It was great to see old friends, hear about all the great work they’re doing in the community, and wish everyone luck on their new project starting up soon in Long Beach. Hugs to all we missed when we were out there.

Phew. That’s quite the thank you list, and it’s not nearly complete. We’re thinking of you all as we continue with the relief efforts in the Rockaways and beyond, and as we brainstorm about the best, most sustainable, inclusive, productive ways to move forward to rebuilding Sandy-affected communities in NYC.

Lots of love to you all.

Respond & Rebuild gets some Great Press

In “Hurricane Sandy is New York’s Katrina,” Village Voice reporter Nick Pinto details the enormous scope of the community response to Sandy-affected areas on New York City in the first days after the storm. It’s a must read for anyone who wants an accurate picture of those days. Our favorite except about us is:

“On 112th Street, Terri Bennett is coordinating 10 crews equipped with gas-powered pumps to empty the water still standing in most of the basements nearby. Bennett is here with a handful of friends she met doing recovery work in Haiti after the earthquake. Calling themselves Respond and Rebuild, they’ve continued to work together on logistical relief in subsequent disasters, and compared with the wide-eyed tenderfoots flooding the Rockaways today, they constitute a sort of volunteer Delta Force.”

Of course those numbers are dated at this point, since on weekends we’re now coordinating up to 15 crews at a time and we’ve become enough of a fixture in the neighborhoods of the Rockaways that we rarely have to go door-to-door these days for more work orders. But we’re thrilled that we, our friends at Occupy Sandy, and all those neighbors helping neighbors got some much deserved praise.

Read the article in it’s entirety here

Oh! And if you’re into radio shows, we’ve got one of those for you, too! On November 21st, our own Terri Bennett was featured on WBAI’s OWS radio in a 6 person panel on the grassroots response in Sandy’s worst hit NYC neighborhoods. Listen to personal stories from the ground, what needs are still not being met, and the experiences of our community members left most vulnerable by the storm here.