As volunteers continue to help his state recover from Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told attendees of the 2013 Conference on Volunteering and Service we are all united in service: “This knows no partisanship.”
Christie said volunteers have been indispensable since Sandy hit on Oct. 29. More than 470 organizations, including HandsOn affiliates, have mobilized volunteers in the Garden State. They’ve helped residents stabilize and rebuild, delivering meals, gutting homes, manning shelters and more.
The need was astonishing. The storm destroyed 365,000 homes in New Jersey, Christie said. Of the state’s 8.8 million residents, 7 million lost power. None of the state’s wastewater treatment plants were fully operational. Every school shut down.
“There is no way that we could have dealt with it without the volunteers that we had from all over the country and around the world,” Christie said during the Conference’s closing plenary session June 21.
Following his speech, Points of Light CEO Michelle Nunn, and Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, joined Christie on stage for a discussion recognizing the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps and the future of volunteerism.
After Sandy, Christie said, “There were a group of AmeriCorps members there in a town everywhere I went. … They were probably the only ones smiling. And I say that as a really positive, hopeful thing.”
Nunn asked Christie and Spencer for their thoughts about how leaders can transfer the overwhelming support of volunteers after a disaster into sustained action in communities are struggling with poverty, injustice and other ongoing problems. Christie urged the audience to make volunteers feel valued, to thank them for the vital work they do, so they keep coming back. Spencer said the private sector can help create long-term volunteers by investing in volunteer management, programs, volunteer centers and HandsOn Network affiliates.
Also during the session, attendees heard from a group of innovators, introduced by HuffPost Live lost Jacob Soboroff – including “Medici Effect” author Frans Johansson and Starbucks executive Cliff Burrows. HandsOn Nashville CEO Brian Williams and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean talked about how community groups and local governments can come together for change and in times of disaster, as evidenced by the massive volunteer response during a devastating flood in their city in May 2010.
Robert Weiss, who heads JPMorgan Chase’s New Jersey Private Banking business, announced the six nonprofit organizations that will receive $25,000 grants through the Chase Community Giving Awards program. Conference attendees had stopped by the Chase booth throughout the conference to vote on which organizations they would like to see receive the awards.
Closing out the session, Points of Light Chairman Neil Bush commended the attendees for the work they do, saying, “You’re truly wonderful examples of points of light.”