Wednesday, September 11th, 2013
This is a guest post by Isabel Kallman, the founder of Alphamom.com. Isabel is volunteering with Meredith Corporation in Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit that believes everyone deserves to live in a safe, healthy home. Earlier this year, the Parents team spent a day cleaning, painting, and gardening at Gerritsen Beach, New York, a Brooklyn neighborhood hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Visit parents.com/WeRebuild to see photos of the workday, volunteer for a project, or to make a donation to support Rebuilding Together’s efforts.
Gerritsen Beach after Hurricane Sandy by Joseph Mikos Photography
The beginning of September always brings with it a flood of memories and anxieties, frankly.
It’s the beginning of the school year in the Northeast. It’s the beginning of a month filled with beautiful skies and crisper weather, just like on September 11th, 2001. And, it’s the beginning of Hurricane Season for the East Coast.
As a child, Hurricane Season in New York City wasn’t something to which we paid that much attention. I remember schools being closed during Hurricane Gloria. But, she skipped New York City.
By college, Hurricane Andrew of 1992 was very memorable. Not because it hit New York (it didn’t), but because its path had crossed with the homes of some of my college buddies from Florida. They came back to college in the Northeast having endured a Category 5 hurricane. My world and cares were expanding beyond New York City.
Over the past two years, New York City has prepared itself for Hurricane Irene and seen firsthand the devastation of Hurricane Sandy (some like to call it Super Storm Sandy, but to me that moniker underplays the devastation she left in her wake). I saw some of it firsthand in the days following.
Unfortunately, I think this is our new normal in the Northeast. I think we should be prepared for annual super storms and hurricanes to hit our coast.
Since Hurricane Andrew, I have often wondered how the residents of the Caribbean and the southeastern states mentally prepare and steel themselves for Hurricane Season. But if there was one lesson I learned back during Hurricane Katrina it was how the American public rallies around others and how the Internet is an effective tool in connecting those who want to help to the resources that allow them to do so. The comfort I reach for now is knowing for sure that if and when a hurricane strikes our area again, there are many many people who want to help.
When my friends from around the country learned of the desperate need for supplies in hard-hit areas of NYC like the Rockaways, Coney Island and Staten Island, I was inundated with messages asking where they could send supplies.
I discovered in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy so many wonderful organizations that were able to coordinate the many volunteers who wanted to help. One such group is Rebuilding Together. It’s a non-profit group that for the past 25 years has been helping communities throughout the US with critical repairs post-devastation.
I was fortunate enough to be a guest of Parents Magazine at Meredith Corporation’s annual Rebuilding Together volunteer day in Gerritsen Beach. Along with 499 other volunteers, I visited the small Brooklyn seaside community where 75% of the homes were unexpectedly flooded during Hurricane Sandy. In team groups, we all worked furiously to help as much as we could that day. I was assigned to help paint and restore Kidde Beach which is the small neighborhood beach where Gerritsen community–especially the kids and families–gather during summer nights and hang out.
We hammered and painted as furiously as we could. Together we wanted to make a huge impact that day. I left with sore arms, but even though we couldn’t accomplish and restore everything, I was comforted to know that Meredith Corporation and Rebuilding Together would be in Gerritsen finishing up restoring homes and Kidde Beach as long as necessary.
Thank you from young Gerritsen Beach resident
Hurricanes are horrifying, as is the devastation they leave behind. But the Americans who rise to the occasion and help? They are awesome and a source of help and comfort to others afterwards. Knowing that fellow Americans want and do help, well, that is a huge comfort to me. Especially now that it’s September again.
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Wednesday, June 5th, 2013
This is a guest post by Isabel Kallman, the founder of Alphamom.com. Isabel is volunteering with Meredith Corporation in Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit that believes everyone deserves to live in a safe, healthy home. The Parents team will be spending tomorrow cleaning, painting, and gardening at Gerritsen Beach, New York, a Brooklyn neighborhood hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Visit parents.com/WeRebuild to see photos of the workday, volunteer for a project, or to make a donation to support Rebuilding Together’s efforts.
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In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Bloomberg cancelled the NYC marathon and instead marathoners visited hard hit areas to help clean-up. Many New Yorkers and neighbors from NJ and Connecticut joined them in the weeks that followed.
Rockaway Beach after Hurricane Sandy
I wasn’t planning on running the NYC marathon, but have come to see the Hurricane Sandy rebuilding efforts as NYC’s real marathon this year. Along with friends I did as much as I could. I tried to help with cleanup in the Rockaways. With my sister, I delivered donations– that poured in from online friends from around the country– to relief centers in Staten Island. My friend Jessica Shyba and I also delivered donations to Staten Island and then finally Coney Island, where I had spent many summer days as a young girl growing up in Brooklyn.
I’ll always remember the sense of relief when I saw Coney Island’s boardwalk again that November afternoon. I was scared that it had washed away, like so much of the Rockaway Beach’s boardwalk. Yes, of course it could be rebuilt, but the Coney Island boardwalk had been such an early memory of my three-year old mind that its loss would hurt. I was so grateful it was still there.
Coney Island boardwalk after Hurricane Sandy
I didn’t write much about my visits to the hurricane-affected areas because my contributions were so small compared to what many others were doing. However, what I have since come to realize and learn is that if we all do a little, together we can move the needle and make what at least feels like a noticeable difference for the better amongst so much destruction.
So, I am eager to help Parents Magazine and its owner, The Meredith Corporation, rebuild some homes in Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn. It’s a small seaside community where 75% of the homes were unexpectedly flooded during Hurricane Sandy (the area was originally Zone B and thus wasn’t evacuated). Gerritsen Beach can be described as a tight-knit multi-generational family community with some residents living there 50 or more years. Gerritsen Beach had never experienced flooding that reached as high as 6 feet in the basements or first floors of their homes and along with it destroying the most cherished belongings of its residents. I feel so fortunate that I can go back to my hometown of Brooklyn and do a little bit more to help.
with Sarah Bryden-Brown of GoMighty speaking to local Gerritsen Beach resident Jimmy
Along with my friend Sarah Bryden-Brown of GoMighty and the editors of Meredith’s magazines, we visited some of the homes and properties we will help to restore on June 6. Now, there’s going to be a whole team of helpers on June 6th.
One special area that I hope to help restore is Kiddie Beach. It’s a small beach area along the Plum Beach Channel that serves as a gathering area for the Gerritsen Beach community. It’s where Gerritsen neighbors– especially the kids and families– gather during summer nights and hang out. There’s a basketball court, a playground and a small stage where the kids put on their shows– all of which needs to be refurbished. Originally, the community wasn’t expecting Kiddie Beach to be open this summer season. Coney Island is my Kiddie Beach and I would love for it to be available and safe for the kids this summer.
Kiddie Beach before Hurricane Sandy
Kiddie Beach after Hurricane Sandy
Remember the theory I’ve embraced? If lots of us can do a little bit, we can move the needle. That’s the goal here. There will be hundreds of volunteers from Rebuilding Together and the Meredith Corporation. Together with the members of the Gerritsen Beach community we hope to help finish a process that first began with a tremendous clean-up effort back in early November.
I’ve never had any desire to lace up sneakers and run in a marathon, but if helping to rebuild is NYC’s marathon, then it’s one I’ll always sign up. I love this city so hard.
Photo credits: top photo by Adrian Kinloch and Kiddie Beach Before by GerritsenBeach.net