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VISTA Reflections: Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief

 “As an Americorps VISTA, I felt it was my duty to respond in some way to the call for help following the devastation caused in our community by Hurricane Sandy. I was glad to be able to help by working at the Gemma E. Moran United Way Labor Food Center. I worked to inform towns and agencies that the food center and other locations in the community would serve as a hub for disaster relief items such as food, water, blankets, batteries, and flashlights. I then helped to sort and distribute the items that had been donated. Contacting the towns really put the impact of this storm into perspective for me because one town would be fine while their neighbors were experiencing a total loss of power and there were many people were displaced from their homes. I can’t imagine what the magnitude of this storm’s damage must be like in areas like New Jersey and New York City. I was really impressed with my community in New London County, the number of donations that had come in to all of our collection sites were impressive. People were trying to donate anything that they could. One woman came in with everything from her refrigerator and freezer because she had lost power. That really showed me the kindness of the human heart. I wonder if she could have found a friend or family member to store it for her until her power returned but instead wanted to give it to people she didn’t even know and leave herself with nothing. Just yesterday a woman called from Bristol to let us know that she was organizing a donation drive within her workplace. I can imagine that areas unaffected by this storm are already starting to forget about it, not because they don’t care but because they can’t see the need with their own eyes. I was really happy to hear that this wasn’t the case and that people like this company in Bristol would drive over an hour to make these donations to our community.” –Mary Gates, NLCFPC AmeriCorps VISTA


“Pallets piled high with boxes of food, dozens of them, from local organizations, church groups, and individuals. As I moved about the warehouse, making space so more food, blankets, and coats could be accommodated, I was struck by how remarkable it is when people come together as a community during times of need and disaster. I was also more appreciative of what I had, and that my family and I had made it through the hurricane unscathed (although without electricity). Although I was only at the Food Center for two days, I gained a much greater appreciation for its role in the community, as well as the people who donate their food and time to help those less fortunate. As an individual, we are only as strong as the people around us, our friends, family, and community members. And after this past week, I have a new found strength.” –Joe Attwater, NLCFPC AmeriCorps VISTA


“Banding together with the Southeastern Connecticut community following Hurricane Sandy was an important reminder of how grateful I am to have the opportunity to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut. Immediately following the storm I helped phone towns and member agencies throughout the county to establish the needs and emergency states of these areas and organizations. As donations from community members began to pour into the Food Center, I helped organize, weigh and sort these items. I interacted with a couple of storm victims this past Monday, still without power, when they came to pick up flashlights and warm blankets. As they walked away with their items, for which they expressed sincere gratitude, I thought of the Massachusetts couple who had driven to the Food Center over the weekend, who asked what items were most needed. Flashlights were in especially high demand. They went to a store nearby and purchased a case of them. Images of the people walking into the Food Center with their arms full of blankets to donate came to mind next. Then my thoughts returned to the storm victims and how their needs were met because of the compassion expressed by so many people and from near and far away.


The past week has been one filled with many emotions. I was sad for millions of people affected by the hurricane’s destructive force, many of whom will continue to feel these effects long after people assume a normality has resumed. I felt an urgency and eagerness to reach out to the community during this time of need. Yet above all, I was inspired—and continue to be so—in many ways. I am heartened by the generosity and concern neighbors and community members expressed through their immediate response efforts. I am amazed at the strength and resilience of the human spirit. And I am inspired by the collective impact that results when community bands together. My hope is that the energy I have felt over the past week as a result of the community coming together and expressing compassion for one another sustains itself long after the recovery from the storm.” –Ellen Mail, NLCFPC AmeriCorps VISTA