FEMA picks LI student for national youth council
Sophie Friedfeld-Gebaide of Roslyn participated in her first disaster-relief volunteer effort at the age of 12, when her family went to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after massive flooding there in 2008.
In the years since, Friedfeld-Gebaide, now 17, has volunteered to help, particularly after superstorm Sandy struck Long Island last fall.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has taken notice, naming Friedfeld-Gebaide, who will be a senior at Roslyn High School in the fall, to the FEMA Youth Preparedness Council. The council's members can range in age from 13 to 17. She is one of five teens newly appointed to the 15-member council -- now in its second year -- comprised of "youth leaders" from across the nation.
She is the only member from New York on the council. There were 171 applicants for the five slots, a FEMA official said.
"We want to get more children involved in preparedness training and programming, making sure our message gets out to parents," said Regina Moran, youth director of FEMA's Individual and Community Preparedness Division.
The youth council will hold a youth disaster preparedness summit in Washington, D.C., July 23 and 24, and members will brainstorm about projects.
"I'm so happy and honored that I was chosen for this great opportunity," Friedfeld-Gebaide said in an interview this week.
Moran said Friedfeld-Gebaide's selection was based on a "very strong" application, noting her "rich experience" in disaster recovery and the many recommendations she had.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) nominated Friedfeld-Gebaide, who had interned in his office last summer. Israel, in a release citing her achievements, said, "Sophie Friedfeld-Gebaide embodies what it means to give of yourself in order to help others."
In the days and weeks following Sandy, Friedfeld-Gebaide sprang into action.
She started a Facebook group called All Hands Long Island, recruiting about 60 friends and classmates who staffed a donation center and helped gather food, clothing and cleaning supplies to help neighbors, as well as people in hard-hit South Shore areas.
"We were able to send three truckloads of goods to the Rockaways, Long Beach and other areas," Friedfeld-Gebaide said.
She also was among those participating in fundraising efforts for All Hands Volunteers, a disaster relief agency based in Carlisle, Mass., that her family has been involved with for many years. Her father serves on the board of directors. All Hands Volunteers continues to help Sandy victims on the Island.
She cited her parents, Liz and Eric Friedfeld-Gebaide, as sources of inspiration. She said the trip to Cedar Rapids with her parents and siblings, Daniel, 15, and Isabelle, 12, and to soup kitchens over the years have been eye-opening experiences.
"You want to help, once you see this happening," she said. "That's the reason I would want to make a difference."