Social workers take action after Hurricane Sandy

By Paul R. Pace, News staff

Social workers volunteered to aid the recovery effort for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy, which caused severe structural damage and flooding in the mid-Atlantic region in late October.

Hurricane Sandy approaches the New Jersey shore in late October. NASW members in New Jersey and New York volunteered to help with the recovery efforts.

NASW New Jersey Chapter Executive Director Walter Kalman said more than 200 NASW members responded to the chapter’s initial call for volunteers to aid the American Red Cross in its disaster recovery.

The chapter, with its offices on the second floor of an office building in North Brunswick, found itself literally in the middle of Red Cross disaster relief operations.

The building’s first and third floors were unoccupied, so the owner donated use of the floors to the Red Cross for its statewide operations center following the storm, Kalman said.

The chapter aided the Red Cross by offering its training room and logistical support services. One hundred cots were set up in the building to give volunteers a place to sleep. The chapter also went to work seeking mental health and shelter volunteers for the Red Cross by emailing and calling members of its Disaster Mental Health Network.

“Red Cross volunteers came from as far away as Texas,” Kalman said. By late December, activity at the building was still high, he said.

The New York City NASW Chapter office was only a block away from damaging floods, said Chapter Executive Director Robert Schachter. He said social workers were instrumental in helping four major hospitals discharge patients to safer facilities during the storm.

New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn took an active role in helping the city respond to the storm damage. On Dec. 6, she was a guest speaker at the chapter’s sixth annual Leadership Awards dinner.

Quinn took a moment to thank the chapter for its help in soliciting volunteers to work at the city’s emergency shelters through the local Medical Reserve Corps and the American Red Cross, Schachter said.

The storm relief effort will be analyzed as part of the ongoing efforts of the New York City Chapter’s Disaster Trauma Committee, he added.

The New York State NASW Chapter also asked members to reach out to the American Red Cross to aid in the recovery efforts in New York City and throughout the state.

Also, Enrico DeGironimo, CEO of Ocean Partnership for Children, Inc., in New Jersey, said he and his staff volunteered and provided disaster crisis counseling to storm victims at a mobile hospital that was set up in the business’ parking lot.

“We also provided counseling support to area shelters,” DeGironimo said. “We had the mobile hospital in our parking lot for two weeks and had EMT’s, nurses and doctors sleeping in our conference room. Volunteer nurses and EMT’s came from the entire northeast region to help out.”

DeGironimo is the Region IV Representative to the National NASW Board of Directors and a past  president of NASW-NJ.

From the February 2013 NASW News

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