Super Storm Sandy
Five-Year Anniversary

The Salvation Army Looks Back

October 27 2017The Salvation Army provides services to every zip code across the United States.  That translates to 39 Corps Community Centers in the Greater New York Division covering fourteen counties in New York City, Long Island and Lower Hudson Valley. These Corps provide services to meet a wide range of physical, emotional and spiritual needs of people in crisis every day through the dedication of employees, interns and volunteers.

Upon arriving in New York City in 1880, The Salvation Army focused on the disenfranchised of society – just as it did during its origins in London in 1865. The mission of addressing physical, emotional and spiritual needs as a way to express compassion and love quickly proved successful and The Salvation Army established programs and services across the country – usually stationing itself in the neediest communities. The original national headquarters building in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood still serves as the headquarters of the Greater New York Division and was recently recognized as a New York City Landmark with an acknowledgment of the positive presence and effect The Salvation Army has had in New York City.

On September 11, 2001, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center were fully visible by employees who had already started their day at the Greater New York Headquarters. The headquarters’ proximity to downtown Manhattan made it a prime location from which to begin response efforts before the day was over. The Salvation Army immediately sent vehicles to the Brooklyn side of various bridges to provide water and snacks to dazed commuters walking long distances home due to the transit and communication systems being temporarily shut down. In subsequent months, The Salvation Army provided countless response services such as feeding rescue workers, managing donations at a hangar at JFK International Airport, and eventually transitioning into long term recovery. Long term recovery services continued for over five years within The Salvation Army’s Headquarters building as well as several Corps Community Centers where intensive case management, job training, mental health counseling, advocacy and financial assistance were provided to thousands of people affected by 9/11. Those who had either lost a family member who worked in the World Trade Center or who had lost a job due to the destruction of many businesses housed there, found comfort through the same mission of addressing physical, emotional and spiritual needs that The Salvation Army had employed upon its initial arrival to New York City.

The work of The Salvation Army Greater New York Division is not only limited to events that occur in New York. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated vast areas of the Gulf Coast and resulted in mass evacuations. Many of those evacuees relocated to New York in the weeks following the storm. The Salvation Army was ready to apply its recent experience in 9/11 long term recovery to this new disaster affected population and once again utilized its Corps Community Centers as a base for services. For over four years, The Salvation Army provided intensive case management, relocation services, counseling, advocacy, furniture and financial assistance to people displaced by Hurricane Katrina – many of whom also received referrals to Salvation Army programming. Whether a person is in crisis due to poverty or due to a disaster, The Salvation Army is there to address physical, emotional and spiritual need due to a vast coverage area throughout Greater New York and the nation as a whole.

As we honor the five year anniversary of Super Storm Sandy, we recognize that having a local presence is crucial to helping people in crisis due to a disaster. The Salvation Army knows firsthand that recovery often takes years and that many people will need assistance beyond what disaster funding alone can provide. On October 29, 2012, when Super Storm Sandy made landfall in the Northeast, The Salvation Army already had a presence in the areas most impacted by the flooding that ensued. The trust already established with community members and local partners allowed The Salvation Army to immediately begin distribution of food, clothing, clean up kits and other needed items at fixed sites or through its Emergency Service Vehicles. Generous donations allowed The Salvation Army to meet the Sandy specific needs of hundreds of households for almost four years after landfall. Funding rebuild projects across the Rockaway Peninsula and the South Shores of Brooklyn and Long Island, and purchasing new mattresses and furniture for families ready to move back home were just some of the unique ways The Salvation Army helped its surrounding communities in need.

Currently, The Salvation Army finds itself active in large scale disaster response and recovery efforts once again. Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, which devastated many Caribbean islands on September 6 2017 and September 18 2017 respectively, have both resulted in mass evacuations just as with Hurricane Katrina aftermath. The Salvation Army of Greater New York is in a unique position to particularly help those from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as those particular islands are part of the same Salvation Army Eastern Territory as Greater New York. In addition, 10% of New York City’s residents have roots in Puerto Rico. New York City has established a Hurricane Service Center and has invited The Salvation Army to be involved in the set up and service provision of this center. The Hurricane Service Center opened on Thursday, October 19 and has been averaging 75 households a day – mostly from Puerto Rico and mostly seeking winter clothing and long term housing. The Salvation Army continues to assess these needs as it strategically prepares to address them all while continuing to address the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Islands through feeding out of 11 Corps Community Centers in Puerto Rico, 1 in St. Thomas and 1 in St. Croix.

When an entire community finds itself in crisis after a disaster, The Salvation Army is poised to expand on its regular programming to address this larger need. Whether the disaster affects New York directly, such as 9/11 and Super Storm Sandy, or results in people arriving in New York to evacuate devastating conditions, such as Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, The Salvation Army is present and able to provide services immediately. The logistics of cooking, feeding, distributing, warehousing, driving, storage and ministering are already established and ready to be expanded and supported through the trust The Salvation Army has gained through being an active community resource.

Disasters are seemingly occurring with more frequency and more devastation and The Salvation Army is already servicing every zip code with no plans to leave. The stability of everyday programming creates stability for the communities affected by disaster. You can be part of this stability by volunteering or donating to your local Salvation Army; by doing so now, you become part of a network that expands during times of disaster. If you currently find yourself in need, connect to your local Salvation Army as well and you too will become part of a network that expands during times of disaster.

Written by Diana Lopez
The Salvation Army Emergency Services, Greater New York

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