Field Trip: Post-Sandy Volunteer Work in Rockaway Park

For the past two Sundays, I've headed down to Rockaway Park to help with the neighborhood cleanup efforts there. As someone who has visited the Rockaways many times for a day of sun and swimming in the summer, it was heartbreaking to see so many of the businesses and houses that I know so well ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.

However, the NYC community has made a tremendous effort to support those who are still struggling with lack of electricity and basic goods. As I walked through the streets on Veteran's Day, I saw many impromptu donation distribution areas set up outside of shops and churches. I came at last to a sign shop that had been converted to a volunteer center, where volunteers were assigned and deployed to folks who had requested help. When we had completed a task (mainly helping residents and businesses shovel sand out of basements or clean silt off of furniture), we would walk to other homes and businesses, knock on the door, and ask if they needed any help.

Some people had things for us to do, some said they were doing fine, and some just took the opportunity to have a chat and share their story. My favorite was one man, whose house still had the high water mark clearly visible on the painted siding about four feet off the ground. "No, we're OK, we don't need anything. Thanks, though," he said. "Our whole first story is a mess, but we just got to get rid of the stuff in there." When we expressed our condolences, he laughed and said, "Yeah, but I guess it's the price you pay for living right on the beach. You should come back in the summer -- it's beautiful!"