GOOD

Fired Up

Get a glimpse into the daily lives of Point Breezy's volunteer firefighters.

People we call upon in times of crisis, who aren’t in it for glory or fame or money, are truly the unsung heroes of today’s society. Volunteer firefighters across the nation dedicate their free time to unpaid positions, risking their lives for the good of their communities.

What does a day in their shoes look like? As part of Fire Prevention Month, in partnership with Nest, we became a fly on the wall at the Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department, a small house with deep history, to observe the lives of these heroes, their camaraderie, and compassion for one other and their constituency.

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Though the news cycle has moved on from Superstorm Sandy, just as it eventually will from the tornados that devastated Oklahoma this week, the communities affected by those natural disasters will continue to struggle to rebuild for the months and years to come.
In the Rockaways, just "15 miles from Manhattan, it's still a disaster," said Tom Webster, a partner at Mother New York, the creative agency spearheading a new project to raise money to rebuild the communities hit hard by Hurricane Sandy last winter.
The project, called Repair the Rockaways, and is a unique and creative way to fundraise. The site borrows the concept from the popular online "Farmville" game, except that by purchasing virtual "bricks"—starting at $10 for 20 bricks—you will be donating actual money to the plots of lands of your choice.
All the donations will go directly a grassroots volunteer group called Respond and Rebuild, a group of volunteers that formed a friendship while assisting in other disaster recovery efforts in Haiti and New Orleans. The group came to New York three days after the storm to put their relief expertise and organization skills to work.

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Last October, when Super Storm Sandy hit New York, it decimated the neighborhood where I grew up, Lindenhurst, and the surrounding areas on Long Island. In the days following the storm—while I was stuck at home seven miles away because of the gas shortage—I did what I could do to help: I started fundraising from my iPhone. Over the course of a few weeks, I raised $6,000 from friends, family, neighbors, and alumni.
Over in Lindenhurst two women were spearheading their own recovery efforts. Jen was going door-to-door with order forms and returning with supplies and food. And because once a house is flooded with salt water it must be gutted to prevent further damage and mold growth, Victoria was mobilizing volunteers to rip out the contents of home after home.
Thousands of us "Lindy alums" working to help our hometown relied on Facebook to keep up with what was happening in the neighborhood. Folks were helping each other virtually, in-person, and via cellphone, because in most places there was no power, or no cable, or both. Those who could help went; those who couldn't sent supplies or money. Everyone rallied the way folks do in a crisis.
I cofounded a nonprofit called Adopt A House to raise money for damaged houses and help residents through the process. We saw a need for homeowners to get concise and accurate information and organized seminars for residents with local experts in their fields on mold remediation, how to hire a contractor, house lifting and more.
Let me be clear, this is not a wealthy community; many of the houses in the affected area of Lindenhurst were bungalows, built in the 1920s and 30s when folks from the city would come out for weekends and summers to enjoy the Great South Bay. In the 50s and 60s, after World War II, during the baby boom, and as people could live further from the city thanks to parkways and cars, the suburbs expanded and many of those summer bungalows transformed into year-round residences in a tight-knit and prospering community. Some of the houses ultimately passed from one generation to the next.
Many residents here have known each other’s families for decades, so when the emergency presented itself, it was the neighbors who sprung into action. The generosity was astounding. Two neighbors who once had an argument so terrible that one chased the other with a chainsaw were working together in the hours after the storm.
It may come as a surprise that it’s been six months and people are still not back in their homes, or are living in them unfinished. There are insurance claim issues, bank issues, and federal aid that is promised but must filter through 18 different agencies before it gets here. Literally, 18 different agencies. There is mold and contamination from the floodwaters. And there was a cold Northeast winter.
Homeowners who’ve paid their insurance and their mortgages responsibly for years without incident are caught in a myriad of red tape and ineptitude. For most, managing this process has become a full-time job. A full-time second job.
For the past six months, everyday has been Neighborday. In many communities across Long Island the residents have pulled together to help each other stay strong as we trudge through the convoluted, red-tape-filled process of repairing and rebuiding. In Lindenhurst alone, we saw the metamorphosis of a makeshift hot food station and supply pickup point into “Camp Bulldog,” an entirely volunteer camp, where folks could go and hot grab a meal while working on their homes. They could pick up informative flyers and share their war stories with their neighbors.
Lindy Manpower, an all-volunteer organization, stepped up and continued the effort to gut houses for residents for free (contractors were charging more than $10 thousand, taking away valuable cash resources for rebuilding). Neighbors who are still in their homes keep an eye on the homes that sit empty. Neighbors keep each other informed about programs and resources that are available to them. Those who have made progress have stepped up to help those who haven’t by offering insight and advice. In fact, one of our most active volunteers has made herself available to anyone who needs help with insurance claims and has guided a number of people through the process. She has made valuable connections with our local government and keeps them informed—whether they like it or not!
I have personally witnessed these accounts of generosity and so much more, but we are stalled. The story of Super Storm Sandy quickly fell out of the news cycle, and understandably, folks—even locally, who weren’t affected—went back to their regular lives.
The first thing I said to myself back in October as I set up my little fundraising campaign was, “They are going to need cash.” And they still do. We're working hard to identify the homes that can be repaired with non-cosmetic rebuild, using donated sheetrock, subfloor and other basic materials and use the available funds for labor, while fundraising for that gap cost. We have over 400 homes in our database, and it is still growing.
Please visit here if you would like to donate to this program, or take a moment to peruse our Crowdrise site and ‘adopt’ a house if you would like to help a family directly. Share it with friends, colleagues, or your neighbors to choose a house and help them get back on track. If something in one of these stories catches your eye and you can help by donating specific materials to cut the fundraising cost, you can also contact us directly at info@adoptahouse.org, and include the house number.

Hang out with your neighbors on the last Saturday of April (a day we're calling "Neighborday"). Click here to say you'll Do It, and here to download GOOD's Neighborday Toolkit and a bunch of other fun stuff.

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Underwater: Original Emerging Artists' Photo Prints for Sandy Relief

V&M Photography is a project that lets you learn about emerging artists while aiding a good cause.

I just moved to Los Angeles a few months ago. Well, actually, I've been living here for two years—unofficially, that is. After ten years in New York, somehow, I just couldn't bring myself to commit to LA—despite its hardships, especially for struggling artists and writers like myself, New York proved tougher to quit than smoking, but I finally kicked on both counts. Preferring to think of it as a trial separation, in 2009, I initially moved to Buenos Aires.

Able to write full-time for the first time in my life while watching various forces at work—the recession and digital explosion and implosion of traditional publishing—I decided to try something completely different with my third book. So I launched Saccades Project as the digital umbrella for a trilogy of young adult novels about a teenage artist. The project gave me the chance to reach out and work with countless young people, all these brilliant young artists I was discovering online: fourteen and fifteen-year-olds who were easily as talented and far more technically proficient as any of the artists in the Masters program when I was in art school. Of course I didn't know if anything would come of it, but the process allowed me to collaborate with and e-meet thousands of artists from all over the world. Having developed a life of its own, I'm pleased to say that Saccades Project is alive and well, and this June, Amazon Publishing will publish the first book of the Saccades trilogy, Ghost Time.

In the meantime, I moved back to the U.S. in 2010, and, frankly, not knowing where the hell else to go, I decided to give Los Angeles a try. So, after three years of living out of a suitcase, last September, I bit the bullet, booked a flight to New York, and hired a freight company to meet me at my storage unit on November 13. All I had, really, was a five-by-five-foot space, packed floor to ceiling. Two weeks before my trip, Hurricane Sandy struck, and having been glued to the news for days, it wasn't until October 30, two days after the storm hit, that it occurred to me that my storage facility was in Alphabet City, 10th and Avenue D. And that my unit was in the basement, surely flooded, if not entirely submerged.

I lost almost everything I own: family photos, childhood letters, first editions, and rare photographs I skipped lunch for months to afford to buy, like a series of Wingate Paine prints I discovered in a junk shop on Crosby Street in 2002. So in the end, turns out I didn't have to move anything from New York after all. Also, on the bright side, I'd just spent several weeks working on an interview about R. Adam Smith, the CEO/Chairman of V&M, Vintage and Modern, "the leading online curated marketplace of unique design goods."

I'd been planning on visiting their office while I was in New York to discuss possible projects, collaborations with the artists I've come to know over the past four years. Then, less than a week after Sandy, only three days after the storm hit, what I found most unique about V&M was their response—locked out of their own office and much of their team without electricity in their own homes, Vintage and Modern launched a four-day benefit, donating 100 percent of all sales to the Red Cross. I knew the company's investment in worthy causes, it's a large part of their MO, but after seeing that level of commitment, I decided to take V&M's tagline "Curate Your Life" to heart and I approached Adam Smith with an idea. He didn't hesitate.

Today, V&M launched its sister site, V&M Photography, home to its Emerging Artist program, which I'll be curating and which will feature up-and-coming global photographers throughout the year. And as part of the launch, V&M and its participating artists will donate up to 30 percent of all net proceeds, in the program's first 31 days, to the New York Foundation of the Arts (NYFA), which supports fellow artists affected by Hurricane Sandy.

In addition to providing crucial information about aid and conservation through its disaster resource center, the NYFA Emergency Relief Fund, supported by the Warhol Foundation, Robert Rauschenberg and Lambent Foundation, has provided emergency grants to artists in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut who lost their equipment, studios, homes and entire lifetimes of artwork last November. NYFA's always done tremendous work on behalf of the arts and artists, but especially over the course of the past three months.

The international artists participating in V&M Photography's Sandy Relief efforts hail from the U.S., England, Canada, Germany, France, Serbia, New Zealand, Italy, Spain, Russia and China. Artists include: 17-year-old German photographer Connie Gegenfurtner; published Serbian poet Tamara Suskic; music producer/member of electronica band Ladytron, Reuben Wu; Karl Lagerfeld model-turned photographer, Canadian Joel Bedford; a color-blind English painter and award-winning photographer who has been shortlisted for the Sunday Times Landscape Photographer of the Year Award the past four years in a row, Chris Friel, and many more.

Keeping prices affordable and limiting the editions to 45 per work, prints will initially be available in small (8 x 10 in.) at $75 unframed/$149 framed, edition of 10; medium (11 x 14 in.) at $149 unframed/$249 framed, edition of 20; large (16 x 20 in.) at $359 unframed/$489 framed, edition of 10; and extra-large (32 x 40 in.) at $750 unframed/$1,400 framed, edition of 5. A selection of the prints are featured below. Each comes with a V&M certificate of authenticity singed and numbered by the artist.

The benefit is about artists helping artists. It's a way for me to help the community I most want to support. And, I suppose, it helps me in a way, too—turns out I could use some new artwork myself.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles

Underwater: Original Emerging Artists' Photo Prints for Sandy Relief

V&M Photography is a project that lets you learn about emerging artists while aiding a good cause.

I just moved to Los Angeles a few months ago. Well, actually, I've been living here for two years—unofficially, that is. After ten years in New York, somehow, I just couldn't bring myself to commit to LA—despite its hardships, especially for struggling artists and writers like myself, New York proved tougher to quit than smoking, but I finally kicked on both counts. Preferring to think of it as a trial separation, in 2009, I initially moved to Buenos Aires.

Able to write full-time for the first time in my life while watching various forces at work—the recession and digital explosion and implosion of traditional publishing—I decided to try something completely different with my third book. So I launched Saccades Project as the digital umbrella for a trilogy of young adult novels about a teenage artist. The project gave me the chance to reach out and work with countless young people, all these brilliant young artists I was discovering online: fourteen and fifteen-year-olds who were easily as talented and far more technically proficient as any of the artists in the Masters program when I was in art school. Of course I didn't know if anything would come of it, but the process allowed me to collaborate with and e-meet thousands of artists from all over the world. Having developed a life of its own, I'm pleased to say that Saccades Project is alive and well, and this June, Amazon Publishing will publish the first book of the Saccades trilogy, Ghost Time.

In the meantime, I moved back to the U.S. in 2010, and, frankly, not knowing where the hell else to go, I decided to give Los Angeles a try. So, after three years of living out of a suitcase, last September, I bit the bullet, booked a flight to New York, and hired a freight company to meet me at my storage unit on November 13. All I had, really, was a five-by-five-foot space, packed floor to ceiling. Two weeks before my trip, Hurricane Sandy struck, and having been glued to the news for days, it wasn't until October 30, two days after the storm hit, that it occurred to me that my storage facility was in Alphabet City, 10th and Avenue D. And that my unit was in the basement, surely flooded, if not entirely submerged.

I lost almost everything I own: family photos, childhood letters, first editions, and rare photographs I skipped lunch for months to afford to buy, like a series of Wingate Paine prints I discovered in a junk shop on Crosby Street in 2002. So in the end, turns out I didn't have to move anything from New York after all. Also, on the bright side, I'd just spent several weeks working on an interview about R. Adam Smith, the CEO/Chairman of V&M, Vintage and Modern, "the leading online curated marketplace of unique design goods."

I'd been planning on visiting their office while I was in New York to discuss possible projects, collaborations with the artists I've come to know over the past four years. Then, less than a week after Sandy, only three days after the storm hit, what I found most unique about V&M was their response—locked out of their own office and much of their team without electricity in their own homes, Vintage and Modern launched a four-day benefit, donating 100 percent of all sales to the Red Cross. I knew the company's investment in worthy causes, it's a large part of their MO, but after seeing that level of commitment, I decided to take V&M's tagline "Curate Your Life" to heart and I approached Adam Smith with an idea. He didn't hesitate.

Yesterday, V&M launched its sister site, V&M Photography, home to its Emerging Artist program, which I'll be curating and which will feature up-and-coming global photographers throughout the year. And as part of the launch, V&M and its participating artists will donate up to 30 percent of all net proceeds, in the program's first 31 days, to the New York Foundation of the Arts (NYFA), which supports fellow artists affected by Hurricane Sandy.

In addition to providing crucial information about aid and conservation through its disaster resource center, the NYFA Emergency Relief Fund, supported by the Warhol Foundation, Robert Rauschenberg and Lambent Foundation, has provided emergency grants to artists in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut who lost their equipment, studios, homes and entire lifetimes of artwork last November. NYFA's always done tremendous work on behalf of the arts and artists, but especially over the course of the past three months.

The international artists participating in V&M Photography's Sandy Relief efforts hail from the U.S., England, Canada, Germany, France, Serbia, New Zealand, Italy, Spain, Russia and China. Artists include: 17-year-old German photographer Connie Gegenfurtner; published Serbian poet Tamara Suskic; music producer/member of electronica band Ladytron, Reuben Wu; Karl Lagerfeld model-turned photographer, Canadian Joel Bedford; a color-blind English painter and award-winning photographer who has been shortlisted for the Sunday Times Landscape Photographer of the Year Award the past four years in a row, Chris Friel, and many more.

Keeping prices affordable and limiting the editions to 45 per work, prints will initially be available in small (8 x 10 in.) at $75 unframed/$149 framed, edition of 10; medium (11 x 14 in.) at $149 unframed/$249 framed, edition of 20; large (16 x 20 in.) at $359 unframed/$489 framed, edition of 10; and extra-large (32 x 40 in.) at $750 unframed/$1,400 framed, edition of 5. A selection of the prints are featured below. Each comes with a V&M certificate of authenticity singed and numbered by the artist.

The benefit is about artists helping artists. It's a way for me to help the community I most want to support. And, I suppose, it helps me in a way, too—turns out I could use some new artwork myself.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles

A City Education: A Post-Sandy Day of Service in Staten Island

For City Year New York corps members serving in a Hurricane Sandy-ravaged city is about more than tutoring and mentoring.

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