Sandy volunteers show power of networking

Dylan Seals, 17, right, and Steven Rice, 13,

Dylan Seals, 17, right, and Steven Rice, 13, cousins, push water out of the driveway of Seals home in Lindenhurst. (Nov. 10, 2012) (Credit: Ed Betz)

Superstorm Sandy has minted a legion of new leaders on Long Island -- residents who still are pitching in to handle everything from donation drives and tearing out wallboard to supporting and delivering food to their neighbors.

Many of these new leaders are operating outside of traditional government and not-for-profit networks, using Facebook and other social media to organize themselves in extraordinary ways:

Hi Barbara,

The family in mastic beach I delivered food to yesterday were very grateful. Glad i could help. God bless you for all you have been doing.

-- Facebook, Mastic Shirley Community Info

In Lindenhurst, volunteers organized and staffed Camp Bulldog, where residents in the heavily damaged area can receive food, clothing, cleaning supplies and other needed items. The effort has been so successful that one Facebook page -- Lindenhurst After Hurricane Sandy -- begot another one specifically for residents to advertise items they have to donate or items they need:

Ok we just received another request for a family that lost it ALL . . . Immediately we need bedroom furniture, living room etc . . . boys are 15 and 17 girl is 13 get the picture.

-- Facebook, Lindenhurst Exchange

This is more than neighbor helping neighbor; it's an unprecedented outpouring of effort that ought to cause officials to rethink -- and significantly remake -- the way Nassau and Suffolk respond to future emergencies.

Through their efforts, residents themselves, neighborhood by neighborhood, are identifying who needs food; who is living alone; who is making do in a house with no heat.

Some are even working to return lost animals to their owners. On a Freeport Facebook page, a woman posted a photograph of a cat she said she found in Oceanside; on Friday, the woman added a video.

In other Sandy-related postings, residents across Long Island make local recommendations for plumbers, electricians and other professionals.

After a Lindenhurst resident lamented losing all of her Christmas decorations, volunteers solicited donations to help her and others make it through the holidays.

And, from one end of Long Island to the other, residents always, always seem to find ways to help:

Please spread the word to donate food coupons if you can. I will share them with other families that have been affected by Sandy. Every little bit helps at this time. If a family can save a few dollars on food that is more money they have to repair their home. This does not cost anything but a stamp . . . Thanks

-- Facebook, Freeport,

NY (Sandy)

John Siebert, 33, a businessman, has spent some 80 hours a week since Sandy volunteering as a volunteer coordinator to help his native Mastic Beach. "I knew I had to help after looking around at the devastation here after the storm," he said.

Siebert and every other volunteer interviewed said they knew still more volunteers who deserved to have their efforts recognized, too.

But they also agreed on something else: Long Island needs to begin preparations now for the next storm -- and those preparations ought to include participation down to the neighborhood level.

"We need a plan and we need to practice it," Siebert said. "People should know what to do, who to contact and where we go next."

The new leaders gained hard-won experience on how to get things done. The region would do well to capitalize on it.