As a crew leader with TXCC’s Emergency Response Crew, my crew and I spent three weeks helping the communities of Brooklyn and the Far Rockaways in their recovery from Hurricane Sandy. Over the course of our deployment, we worked with homeowners from a diverse array of socio-economic backgrounds, and whose willingness to be present during our efforts varied greatly. For some, being involved in the process of mucking and gutting their own home, which inevitably necessitates seeing one’s treasured possessions be disposed of in contractor bags, was understandably too much too bear. When we worked with Brian and Carmel, a married couple who had immigrated from Ireland a few years before, we got to see an entirely different dynamic in action. Spending their evenings in sleeping bags on the floor of their bathroom (the only room in the house that wasn’t in a state of complete disarray), they were already hard at work each day when we arrived in our van. Brian taught us a great deal about the realities of gutting a home: the kinds of practical lessons that no OSHA training can hope to convey. He was consistently the hardest worker on site, while his wife was incredibly involved in recovery efforts on the community level. Their gratitude was palpable, and they repeatedly asked the coordinators at our Volunteer Resource Center to send us back to work with them, rather than have an array of volunteers coming in and out of their home, and surprised us with coffee and soup on numerous occasions. When we finished, we took a number of group pictures at their insistence, and tears were shed by several of those involved. Working with them, and seeing the tangible and intangible impact we had on their lives, was by far the highlight of an extremely rewarding deployment.
“The volunteers are all amazing, so willing to help. Their attitude, their ability, their enthusiasm is something I have never seen before. We are blessed to have met such a wonderful group, all of them.” –Carmel Costello, homeowner. Taken from her homeowner survey on our corps members.
Shawn McGrath, Crew Leader ERT