HURRICANE SANDY ADDS DEEPER MEANING TO THANKSGIVING: A NONPROFIT PERSPECTIVE


By James D’Ambrosio

As millions across the U.S. gather to celebrate a festive Thanksgiving dinner this week, it’s a long-standing tradition to reflect on the riches we have and be thankful we have them. I, too,  follow this script. But this year — with Hurricane Sandy bringing hardship, loss and unimaginable suffering to millions in the Northeast — the holiday takes on deeper significance. 

A HURRICANE CHANGES THE EQUATION

Sandy’s devastation, particularly in NYC, NJ, Long Island and CT included:  nearly 50 deaths; homes, cars and memories destroyed; subways and commuter railroads damaged/shuttered for days; millions losing power for long periods of time; gas lines everywhere; people shivering without heat, light and hot water; looting;  water damage to buildings in Lower Manhattan; and estimates of $50 billion in losses. Indeed, I lost power for 12 days and witnessed devastation in my Long Island neighborhood.

A DEEPER MEANING AT THANKSGIVING 

It’s one thing to see reports of a natural disaster on the news; quite another to   experience it personally. Which brings me to the concept of empathy — being able to put yourself in the place of others suffering hardship and loss. This is an important quality for nonprofit workers, especially those involved with disaster relief, poverty, homelessness, health care, or direct service.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our work that we lose sight of the very essence of what nonprofit/human service is all about: helping those who are less fortunate, caring about their well-being, and realizing a sense of fulfillment in doing so. While many agencies are still feeling the effects of the Great Recession, i.e., ongoing fiscal challenges, the spirit in which vital human service work is carried out should remain in the forefront.    

I know when I sit down to dinner with family on Thursday, I’ll have a deeper appreciation for what I have and what it really means to suffer loss and be without. I was lucky — just losing power, a few tree limbs and some minor household damage — mostly inconveniences. In the past weeks it has become painfully clear that many were not so fortunate.

INFORMED GIVING FOR RELIEF EFFORTS

In the wake of this major disaster, if you’re considering donating to relief efforts, Charity Navigator — a  highly-respected nonprofit focused on intelligent giving — lists 42 highly-rated agencies involved in relief efforts, an informative article, and “Tips For Giving In Times of Crisis” to help you make an informed decision. View this important information herehttp://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=1451&gclid=CPuX16231rMCFUWo4Aodn0oAOA

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QUESTIONS TO READERS:

A) What is your perspective on nonprofit service in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy? 

B) Which charities do you recommend to help in the recovery?

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