Middle island. Sand and refuse to my left to my right. The houses stand quiet, with doors and windows closed to outsiders. The sky is crystal blue, salted with puffy white clouds. A Sunday morning drive brought us here to a beach community devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
There are seven of us in our group of volunteers with a mixmosh of people from around upper North America--Toronto to Indiana, to locals just like us. Colleen is manning a 2-way radio, directing us to gather trash, excess seaweed and anything that's not quite bundled in heaps, as part of our debris cleanup. We each have 3-5 extra-large trash bags and although we have just started, they fill up quickly. Luckily Tariq the volunteer foreman who drove from Columbus, OH to help the effort, is in constant contact with headquarters, and before long a blue hatchback pulls up with more bags. The driver, a fireman is another volunteer also from Columbus.
We are volunteering in Long Beach, NY at the Magnolia Senior Center with Humanity First, a nonprofit organization that specializes in serving victims of natural disaster worldwide. Their history is impressive with expansive efforts dating back to 1995.
A surgeon from Syosset shares stories about working with communities in Haiti and Indonesia, some of which are disturbingly graphic. He talks about corpses and caring for casualties omnisciently. He is there with his son, what a great role model he is for his children. Another doctor, an economist, a recruiter, a writer, so many walks of life donating time and energy to give back to so many who have suffered loss.
We work in teams of two and three. A fleet of minivans, white then blue, moms and kids doing their part, offering lunch: sandwiches, cookies, juice and crackers. Saying thank you.