President Barack Obama signed a $50.5 billion emergency relief bill last month for Hurricane Sandy victims affected by the Oct. 29 storm blamed for more than 130 deaths in the U.S. and widespread property damage. Three months later, communities hardest hit, especially in New York and New Jersey, are gradually rebuilding their homes, businesses and livelihoods with the help of state and local government. But, it can't stop there with many still left to cope with massive loss and bureaucratic red tape.
On a recent visit to Coney Island and its residential neighborhoods, I met everyday people stepping up to the plate and helping each other however they can. Aid comes in many forms, whether you pitch in with cleanup efforts, check on the elderly in public housing with no elevator service or provide a hot meal for a family without power. One storm-damaged church still using generators, Coney Island Gospel Assembly, remains a beacon along Neptune Avenue for residents in need of medical attention. Small delis and grocery stores try to regain a sense of normalcy every day their doors open.
And, Carlos Cordero, of Surf Side Garden, diligently cares for three surviving ducks at the community green space struck by Sandy. Many of the rabbits, chickens, pigeons and other animals once frequenting the grounds were lost in floodwaters. "We're gonna need help come March," Cordero said amid the debris. It's an opportunity to clear the garden, start anew and plant fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers in an area open to the public and filled with reminders of Cordero's native Puerto Rico. "This place in the summer is paradise," he smiles.
I'm a firm believer in volunteering time if donating money isn't an option. Something we all can do no matter where you live.