Superstorm Sandy, which struck the Northeast with record-breaking devastation in late October of 2012, caused well over $100 billion in damages and related costs, and killed almost 200 people in the Caribbean, the U.S. and Canada. Thousands were left homeless, and as is typically the case with natural disasters, older people had a particularly difficult time getting back on their feet.
AARP Foundation went to work right away, raising funds and dispensing nearly $1.6 million in donations and grants to 46 organizations that were on the ground helping with recovery efforts. Now, almost a year later, we can take a look at how that help was put to good effect at the local level.
Feeding the hungry was one of the most immediate needs, and in the days and weeks after the storm, Foundation grant money helped organizations throughout the most heavily impacted areas. These agencies provide relief on a routine basis, so they knew exactly where the need would be greatest. For instance, City Meals on Wheels, in New York City, distributed some 20,000 meals to senior centers and homebound elderly throughout the city in the days before the predicted landfall and then followed with an additional 40,000 meals once the storm hit. And the Connecticut Food Bank used its network of more than 650 feeding programs such as soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters and qualified residential programs to get resources out in an efficient manner.
Other grants helped with cleanup and repair of badly damaged homes. The Senior Housing Resource Corporation used donated funds for vital cleaning and restoration of a 36-unit residence occupied entirely by formerly homeless older adults in Staten Island. And the Stroudsburg Rotary Foundation applied its grant to help in the reconstruction of a senior center in Moonachie, New Jersey. These are just a couple of examples of how funds given to local organizations provided targeted relief.
One of the more interesting ways in which Foundation grants helped was in providing legal services to those whose lives had been so suddenly and devastatingly disrupted. Legal Services of New York used funds to support a hotline that was particularly valuable to homebound elderly, providing legal assistance on such issues as housing and foreclosure, applying for FEMA funds and collecting unemployment insurance. In one notable case, an 87-year-old homebound widow in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, found herself dealing with five feet of floodwater and sewage in her home. She had no flood insurance or savings, living only on Social Security and a modest retirement income. She got only the minimum of assistance from FEMA for home repair, but after using the hotline, Legal Services of New York represented her and was able to secure adequate funding so she could get her home back into a livable condition.
Foundation grants even helped those dedicated to helping others, the brave first responders of the New York Police Department, whose families were of course not immune to the ravages of the storm. The New York City Police Foundation used grant money to support its disaster relief service for employees of the police department throughout the city. According to a report from the Police Foundation, “So many members of the NYPD shared stories about their ordeals and asked us to express their heartfelt gratitude to the AARP Foundation for its generous gift. Your direct assistance to these first responders was extremely meaningful during that difficult time.”