While the Fort Greene area was largely spared severe damage from Hurricane Sandy, we all know many New Yorkers weren't as lucky. In Rockaway, one fifth of residents still have not been able to return home and thousands still lack heat or power.
Respond & Rebuild, a disasater relief organization founded by Fort Greene residents Gabriel Van Houten and Terri Bennett, has been coordinating volunteer trips to the Rockaways since the first days after Hurricane Sandy, to help the community recover faster and more safely.
The group began by operating a mobile pumping unit to pump out basements, moved on to gutting and cleaning out damaged homes, and now operates a free mold remediation service. Mold poses the largest public health threat to NYC's affected areas and homes that aren't treated are subjected to severe rot. Their procedure has been approved by both Department of Health workers and mold experts from CUNY School of Public Health and Long Island University.
To date, Respond & Rebuild has logged over 6000 hours with more than 1000 volunteers, worked with over 175 families in Rockaway, held 6 mold safety education trainings and DIY workshops, and is currently developing a program of workshops that will enable neighbors to help neighbors in the recovery process. They've gotten visits from UNDP's Helen Clark, appeared in the UNDP's One Day On Earth video series, and have been visited by rapper Immortal Technique and Jane's Addiction's Perry Farrell.
With the delay of federal funding, community groups like this need all the support they can get, and you can be part of this people-powered relief effort in several ways.
First, you can volunteer. Respond & Rebuild accepts volunteer teams every Saturday and Sunday and you can sign up on their website www.respondandrebuild.org/volunteer. Volunteers work together to remediate mold in homes, and occasionally help with demolition. Volunteers with construction experience are particularly needed to help lead crews.
If you can't get down to Rockaway, you can visit the gift registry on Respond & Rebuild's website (www.respondandrebuild.org) and help purchase needed supplies, or contribute to their Indiegogo campaign to get as many displaced families safely home as possible: http://www.indiegogo.com/RespondRebuild