Post-Sandy opportunities abound, struggles continue

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One panel at the Smart Growth Summit addressed the strategies that have worked and the lessons that have been learned from the past year of Sandy recovery. Speakers included a plethora of community rebuilding and relief organizations that have been working around the clock to assist Long Islanders.

A number of local service groups, churches, small businesses and municipalities have stepped forward to help fill the many gaps and the unmet needs of thousands of Long Islanders who are still displaced. Some are homeless, and some are still living with friends and relatives, while little to no government, insurance or charitable support has made it their way. With homes destroyed, difficult claims to file and lawyers challenging lawsuits, it’s been a struggle for many to get back to normal.

The panel discussed some of the issues people across Long Island are still facing, well after the storm, and various groups’ functions. The group addressed the urgent need for mental health care for Sandy victims. Another big issue in the wake of the storm is the lack of communication and a grasp of what is really happening on the ground.

Friends of Freeport, which started as just a few people helping their neighbors, now has construction crews, and operates during the week and on weekends. Friends founder Rich Cantwell spoke about the group’s rebuilding efforts and how social media was helpful in garnering support and assistance. Although more than 100 residents have already been helped, he said, there’s a lot of work left to do.

Friends of Long Island was established to bridge the gap between governmental entities and conventional nonprofit disaster relief and the grass-roots community groups that are responding to the needs of communities. The collaboration has grown to stretch from East Rockaway to the Hamptons. Friends of LI’s volunteer efforts have helped those in need in Freeport, Long Beach, East Rockaway, Wantagh, Seaford, Oceanside, Island Park and other communities.
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