Long Island Business News
October 28, 2013
Donations, volunteerism soared after Sandy
by Claude Solnik
As often happens in a disaster, volunteers, nonprofits and donors were the unsung heroes of Hurricane Sandy.
More than $575 million in cash has been raised to date to fund Sandy relief efforts, according to the New York State Attorney General’s Office, while charitable organizations have also received some $105 million in donated goods and services.
Local nonprofit groups got busy almost before the storm finished. The North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, for instance, raised $2 million for Sandy relief in a Lenox Hill Hospital fundraiser held just days after Sandy. North Shore-LIJ employees, meanwhile, quickly began donating personal vacation time to a vacation bank to help coworkers who needed to rebuild their lives.
“There was an incredible outpouring from employees who wanted to help their colleagues,” North Shore-LIJ spokesman Terry Lynam said.
Corporate donors also stepped up. Verizon Wireless arranged a $3 million donation for Sandy relief, including $1 million from Verizon’s foundation and $2 million raised from customers through a cellphone-based donation program.
Rallying the public to the cause became a common corporate call: Several banks quickly installed options at ATMs allowing customers to donate to Sandy relief while performing other transactions.
San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. contributed more than $1 million while smaller institutions like Suffolk County National Bank raised thousands of dollars.
Instead of money, or in addition to it, others donated time post-Sandy. Volunteer firefighters across Long Island logged mammoth hours as a series of crises – everything from carbon monoxide poisoning to chainsaw accidents – befell Island residents.
Bank employee and Plainview Fire Department volunteer Jason Bunin personally responded to dozens of calls between Sandy, which struck on a Monday night, and the bitter nor’easter that followed less than a week later.
“Prepping started on Sunday – getting trucks fueled, supplies stored, chainsaws sharpened,” Bunin said. “The calls started Monday morning.”
Fellow firefighter Randy Carlin works for a large cellphone company. But before he could start repairing cell towers damaged by Sandy, he had to tackle more immediate concerns.
“You walk into a cell site in the dark,” said Carlin, also a Plainview Fire Department volunteer. “If there’s a wire down and it’s hot and you grab something metal, you can get electrocuted.”
A year later, the altruism continues: Just last week, the United Way of Long Island announced a $1 million donation from the American Red Cross that will fund, in part, an assessment of Sandy’s psychological impacts by La Fuerza Unida, a Glen Cove nonprofit dedicated to improving the social, educational and economic conditions of low-income Hispanic-American communities.
“We’re still collecting donations,” noted Craig Fligstein, vice president of grant development and strategic initiatives for the United Way of Long Island, “and looking for grants to help folks rebuild their livelihood and communities.”