Long Island needs volunteers. Stat.
According to charity and governmental agencies, the number of Long Islanders who volunteer for the myriad needs in the two counties has dwindled significantly since superstorm Sandy in 2012. Officials spoke at the local chapter of the American Red Cross in Mineola on Tuesday morning, urging residents to step up and volunteer.
“There is a need for 4,000 more volunteers in the region,” said Liz Barker, the acting CEO for American Red Cross of Long Island. The chapter covers Nassau, Suffolk, New York City and the lower Hudson Valley. On Long Island, the American Red Cross has about 1,100 volunteers, she said.
The organization has positions from crisis team volunteers, to those who work behind the scenes to package, transport and help with paperwork.
Barker said volunteers have been on the scenes at plane crashes, house fires, blizzards and floods, “helping more than 1,000 Long Islanders get their lives back together.”
Legis. Dennis Dunne Sr. (R-Levittown) said the Red Cross was “at the table” during superstorm Sandy, and its volunteers are there whenever disaster hits.
“You don’t have to be an expert cook. You don’t have to be an expert speaker,” he said. “You can be a shy person . . . .There are so many jobs. Don’t be afraid to volunteer. We’ll find a place for you.”
Both Barker and Dunne said other local organizations, including fire departments, ambulance companies and the Kiwanis, also are looking for volunteers.
A $4 million state grant from the federal government called Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response allowed Long Island fire departments to run an advertising campaign and offer incentives, such as tuition reimbursement at community colleges. This has kept levels at about 20,000 volunteers in Island fire departments, but the needs continue to rise, says Robert Leonard, spokesman for the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York.
“With the advent of more automatic smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, the volume of calls continue to rise, but the number of firefighters stays the same,” he said.
Traditional volunteer groups such as the Kiwanis and Lions Club also are looking for new volunteers, Dunne said.
Jean Shafiroff, who grew up in Hicksville, and now lives in both New York City and Southampton, has recently published a book, “Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life by What You Give,” spoke about the importance of volunteering, and the rewards.
“Volunteerism is a vital hallmark of our community, and an extension of ourselves and of our family to one another.”
“I know Long Island and I know they will step to the plate,” she said.
To volunteer, call the Long Island chapter of Red Cross at 877-RED-CROSS, or redcross.org/li. Those interested in the fire departments, ambulance companies or other community groups should call them directly.