Thanks to the generous contributions of many of you, in the days after Hurricane Sandy more than 800 families were immediately assisted through the provision of food, water, baby supplies and gift cards to purchase items such as clothing. In the following weeks, as more of you gave, 740 families were helped with rental payments, utility payments and the replacement of household goods lost to the storm.
More recently, in February, we were able to approve modest grants with a potentially big impact to three grassroots organizations that are helping to shift the balance of power in recovery efforts towards a focus on strengthening marginalized communities in the wake of the storm: New Jersey Communities United (NJCU), PICO New Jersey, and the New Jersey Citizen Action Education Fund (NJCAEF).
Each group is actively working to increase access to information and to expand participation in the recovery process. With support from Bend the Arc, NJCU will be able to broaden its organizing efforts to the Ironbound, a section of Newark that was hard-hit by Sandy. PICO will use its grant to support organizer outreach to faith communities, with the goal of helping those most affected by Sandy play a significant role in deciding how public resources are used in the recovery effort. By increasing Sandy-affected families’ access to information, NJCAEF will help them prevent foreclosure, avoid falling prey to predatory lenders, and take advantage of training and services.
Bringing Lessons Learned in the Gulf Coast to Sandy Recovery
On March 6, the Isaiah Fund held a meeting to jump start investment in low-income urban communities affected by Hurricane Sandy, and announced a $1 million commitment to the effort.
The Isaiah Fund is the nation’s only interfaith investment fund dedicated to long-term recovery after natural disasters. It formed in the wake of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina to invest in the rebuilding and revitalization of disaster-torn communities in the Gulf Coast. The Fund has invested millions in New Orleans to help build or rebuild hundreds of affordable homes over the past five years, as well as space for cultural activities, small businesses, schools and medical facilities. Fund members include Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Mennonite and other faith-based institutions.
At the March 6 meeting, disaster recovery experts, foundation funders, community investment groups and disaster response organizations shared lessons learned from years of recovery work in the Gulf Coast and information about current needs in New York and New Jersey.
“We have learned so much since coming together five years ago determined to invest in New Orleans’ recovery,” said Mark Regier, Director of Stewardship Investing for Everence Financial and a founding member of the Isaiah Fund Board of Managers. “Today we have the privilege of taking the experience we have gained working with residents of the Gulf Coast and using it to foster effective strategies that will assist in the recovery of the most vulnerable communities harmed by Hurricane Sandy.”
“We know from our own investment experience, that when you listen to community members, and provide access to the resources they tell you they actually need, it ignites the growth of economic opportunity, systemic recovery and permanent change,” said Flozell Daniels, President and CEO of the Foundation for Louisiana. “We have seen the success of this model in the Gulf Coast and there is no doubt it can be equally effective for communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy.”
“After Hurricane Sandy, many of us were focused on meeting immediate critical needs for food, water, clothing and other essentials,” said Alan van Capelle, CEO of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, which houses and manages the Isaiah Fund. “But we know that isn’t enough, not by a long shot. We will be there for the long haul, until these communities are able to prosper.”