News - Rotary Clubs respond to Hurricane Sandy

   Published: Friday, 9 November 2012

By Ryan Hyland 
Rotary News -- 9 November 2012

Rotary districts in New York and New Jersey have mobilized to provide relief for communities affected by Hurricane Sandy, which slammed into the northeastern United States on 29 October.

More than 160 people in the United States and the Caribbean were killed by Sandy’s powerful wind gusts and storm surges, which left tens of thousands without shelter and millions without electricity. Some areas remain without power more than a week later.

“The destruction is unthinkable,” says Bonnie Sirower, governor of District 7490 (New Jersey). “There are towns up and down the coast that have been completely wiped away. Several Rotary districts, including mine, have suffered immense damage.”

Sirower’s district and five other affected districts (7230, 7250, 7260, 7500, and 7640), which include parts of New Jersey, New York, and Bermuda, are coordinating much of the Rotarian relief effort by collecting funds and supplies for hard-hit communities. The aid will be distributed equally among the six districts to use where they feel the most need is, says Sirower.

Sirower says truckloads of clothes, blankets, cleaning supplies, and ready-to-eat meals and other nonperishable food have been arriving in the affected districts. Teams of Rotarians have worked around the clock since the storm hit to sort the items and determine where to deliver them.

Mario Moran, governor of District 7250 (New York), was shocked by the devastation in his district.

“Cars have been totally inundated, homes destroyed, furniture, and appliances scattered on muddy streets,” says Moran. “It brought tears to my eyes seeing the look of so many people walking in despair after five days of sudden homelessness.”

But Moran says he’s also seen incredible acts of selflessness. “People in the streets with barely anything for themselves were offering me the very little food they had. Such generosity was amazing to witness.”

Rotarians act quickly

“The response from Rotarians is nothing short of amazing,” says Sirower. “The day before the storm hit, I was receiving calls from clubs around the world asking what they could do to help. We have three warehouses in my town full of supplies that Rotarians have sent to us.”

Governor John Andrews of District 7640 says his neighborhood in Ocean City, New Jersey, looks like a war zone.

“It was heartbreaking to see blocks and blocks of homes destroyed,” says Andrews, whose home suffered minor damages but lost electricity. “I was very lucky, but you have to pay back that luck, and that’s what Rotarians all over this region are doing.”

Andrews says he’s received emails and phone calls from clubs and districts worldwide offering help.

“All of our districts are so used to giving in emergencies like this, it feels so different to be on the receiving end,” says Andrews. “The support shown to us throughout the Rotary world shows we’re not alone during this recovery.”

Governors of the six affected districts are asking Rotarians to send donations to their Hurricane Sandy fund. To learn how to donate and to read news updates, visit their website.

Other relief efforts:
•The Rotary Club of Murray, Kentucky, USA, is delivering a truckload of clothes, tools, packaged meals, and other relief items to Rotarians in Freeport, New York. Members have also collected more than $1,000 for the affected area.
•Rotarians in District 7530 (West Virginia, USA) collected 20 generators, and the Rotary Club of Tucker County, West Virginia, is distributing them in areas left without power by several feet of snow.
•Rotaractors at the Rotary-UN Day distributed 350 boxed lunches to the Bowery Mission in New York City on 3 November.
•ShelterBox has deployed a response team to distribute temporary shelter and emergency supplies to evacuees. The team is working with Rotary clubs to identify the hardest hit areas. Hundreds of blankets have been sent to shelters.