February 13, 2013–Last week, I had the opportunity to tour the Hurricane Sandy relief and recovery projects in the Far Rockaways in Queens with Points of Light as part of their Corporate Service Council meeting. Being a New Yorker myself, I was eager to see first-hand the areas affected and to witness the tireless work of rebuilding. Representatives from New York Cares, a Points of Light affiliate, guided us as we drove down Rockaway Boulevard, where less than half of the businesses have re-opened. In the first two months since Sandy made landfall, New York Cares volunteers have filled 14,000 slots on 924 disaster-related projects, where they “mucked out” (i.e., cleared out anything that sustained water damage) more than 300 water-damaged homes in an effort to get residents back in their homes.
It was crucial for New York Cares to organize the initial outpouring of volunteers so they wouldn’t get in the way of the city’s first responders. Even now, several months later, New York Cares serves as the primary source of relief operations in Brooklyn and Queens, with efforts expected to continue through the spring and into the summer. This organization runs busses of volunteers from lower Manhattan to their staging site every day. Projects progress from “muck out” to mold removal before the eventual rebuilding can begin.
Corporations have also stepped up to serve. Points of Light engaged corporate partners, such as IBM and Verizon, to provide technical expertise and in-kind support valued at $50,000 and has connected many others with Sandy-related corporate volunteer opportunities.
Back at the Corporate Service Council meeting, local practitioners from JetBlue, Capital One, AT&T, and New York City Mayor’s Office participated in a candid panel discussion about the response and the role that government, the nonprofit sector, and corporations uniquely play in the immediate and long-term recovery process.
Throughout the two day conference held at JPMorgan Chase in New York City, corporate attendees shared best practices, accelerating the impact of their community programs. Chaired by Cliff Burrows, President of the U.S. and Americas at Starbucks, the Points of Light Corporate Institute’s Corporate Service Council is the premier national platform for advancing corporate volunteerism. An executive panel featuring Burrows and representatives from the NBA, Con Edison, and JPMorgan Chase underscored the value proposition of community engagement and payback for the bottom line.
The conference closed with an energizing call to “Be Fearless” from Michael Smith of the Case Foundation, demonstrating how innovation often arises from “Failing Forward,” being willing to take chances and think outside of organizational constraints. Campbell Soup’s “Just Peachy Salsa,” which is turning blemished peaches into at least $100,000 for the Food Bank of New Jersey, is just one example.
The Corporate Service Council meeting shined a light on the power of service in situations such as Hurricane Sandy – and the potential to work together for even greater positive impact. Participating in the CSC meeting was such an inspiration, especially as we at CECP prepare to share stories of corporate engagement on International Corporate Philanthropy Day Monday, February 25, 2013.