Hurricane Sandy Relief Initiative

Project Overview

Waves for Water has coordinated a full-fledged Hurricane Relief Initiative in response to Super Storm Sandy that has absolutely decimated the North Eastern seaboard.

Though we normally focus on clean water, this time we will be addressing the initial survival needs on many levels from first responder assistance to rubble removal and ultimately the rebuilding efforts. We have extensive experience with disaster relief that puts us in a unique position to help organize, mobilize and deploy a strategic response initiative for the victims of Sandy.

We will be focusing primarily on the surf-based coastal communities in Jersey and NY to start. We look at W4W effort specifically as a vessel for the surf community to funnel their support through, specifically addressing the families and businesses of the surf communities that were wiped out.

W4W will serve as a bridge connecting the global surf community directly to our brothers and sisters in need along the East Coast that have been the pillars of their community for generations. It’ll be a long road… but one foot in front of the other, we will get there…

Oct 28 - 2013One Year Anniversary of Catastrophic Hurricane Sandy

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We are just approaching the one year anniversary of this catastrophic storm and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all the people who have worked so hard helping to get these communities back on their feet. I'm proud of my team and the countless individuals from each and every one of these towns we've worked in. Let me make something VERY clear - these towns are being rebuilt by their own residents, period. If we've played a part, it's been just as facilitators. The true grit has come from the locals who rose to the occasion and put their head down to do what needed to be done - for them, and their neighbors in need. Throughout this project I've seen the very best of what humanity has to offer... and I've also seen immense heartbreak and despair. But the one thing that resonates the most for me is the realization that no matter what we are all in this together. Not just something like Sandy, but life as a whole. We are a dynamic species with incredible strength and compassion... and when we collectively embark on something - there is absolutely NOTHING we can't do. Ha...! I sound like a football coach giving a halftime pep-talk...! But all jokes aside, I've been seeing examples of this collective power we have, each and every day... and it's nothing short of remarkable.

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Now I'm gonna go even more cliche on y'all and drop a Gandhi quote, but I honestly feel it speaks to this notion that despite all the heaviness and adversity that gets thrown at us -- we will ALWAYS persevere... together.

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have won. There have always been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always." - Mahatma Gandhi

We still have an incredibly long way to go - there is conflict and strife in nearly every corner of the world, but there is also love and truth in those same corners to fight it. This is the natural order of the universe, but take it from my man, Gandhi, the latter will always prevail... always.

Big thanks to all of you who have supported our journey - with Sandy and beyond. With clean water programs in 12 countries and our Sandy initiative still going strong, we are firing on all cylinders.

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Lastly, we are just finishing up our 1 year impact report for the Sandy initiative which I'll be sending out shortly. It will also be available on our site so please feel free to spread the word. It is very in depth on the stats and details of everything we've done throughout this entire project.

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And again, BIG BIG thanks to all our partners and supporters, but I want to say a special shout out to those who made John G's rebuild possible - KIND Snacks, Home Depot, and Catholic Charities...

Thanks! JR

Oct 18 - 2013Big Thanks From W4W to Eddie Stern

When I first came to the East Coast on Nov 2, 2012 to launch our Hurricane Sandy Relief Initiative I had no idea what to expect in terms of support. I knew that we had a good network that would likely get behind us but they were just assumptions at the end of the day. In the following months we would see an incredible outpouring of support organically come in, both financial and in-kind donations. We saw the surf industry join hands and send all types of support for the surf communities hit hardest in NY/NJ. We also saw musicians like Jack Johnson, MGMT, Mike D, Yeah Yeah Yeah's, My Morning Jacket, and Mos Def come together to support our initiative. It was amazing to watch it unfold and see people from many different disciplines band together for the greater good. I have always looked at Waves For Water as an "outside the box" organization - meaning everything we do, from the implementation of our programs to our lean infrastructure. So naturally I would expect our supporters to also be "outside the box" type entities.

That said, I'd like to take this opportunity to throw a special shout out to a group in New York who has been a huge ongoing supporter of our Sandy Initiative - Led by Eddie Stern, the good folks over at the Broome St Temple rallied and truly rose to the occasion when Sandy hit. Many of their loyal supporters looked to Eddie as a guiding light to funnel their Sandy related support through. Stern, founder of Ashtanga Yoga New York, is regarded as one of the top Yoga Guru's in the world. After the storm hit, he and his network were immediately out in the Rockaway's helping in any way they could. When I met him he was looking for a good program to start funneling some of the financial aid he had collected via Broome St. Temple. Since then the Broome St temple has helped fund four rounds of candidates through our monetary grant & restore/rebuild programs - helping over a dozen NY/NJ families get almost entirely back on their feet.

Their support has been genuine and tireless and on behalf of the W4W crew and all the families who directly felt their support, THANK YOU Broome St Temple!

Sometimes in this line of work we get to see the brilliance of humanity, in it's purest form - the full circle. Below, rounding out the circle, are a couple thank you notes we received from recipients of Eddie/BST's ongoing support...

I am writing to you, asking you to please forward this note of gratitude to the donor.

Because, without them there would be no light at the end of the tunnel. The grant we received from them made it possible to hire a good electrician to help us get power back on at our home. Lucky for us there was a small amount of plumbing damage, and we were able to fix that as well.

The things we take for granted everyday, just to turn on a light, or shower, and even get a glass of water, were a huge undertaking. But now thru the grace of a perfect stranger, these things are now possible.

I thank God every night for the love of my family and friends. And now for the overflowing heart of a perfect stranger. The person who made my life easier, they are now on the top of my list.

For those non believers’ Angles do exists, because mine flew into my life, and gave me hope where there was none.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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To All Those Who Have Helped Our Family,

You have given us encouragement and hope in a difficult time. We are grateful for your support. The donations that were given to us were an immense help to our family. It allowed us to secure a rental property and pay a security deposit for the home we will reside in during the next year. We were able to make a trip to the Disney store to replace some of Gia's favorite toys and take Nicholas to the mall to replace some of his favorite gadgets. Purchasing clothing the first few days was difficult, but we needed enough to get ourselves started. Having the donations made the thought of replacing things a lot less stressful for us. It's amazing how it feels to have strangers help you in your time of need. It makes the world seem like a smaller place full of love and goodness. We are looking forward to getting back on our feet and paying it forward. Thank you again for being there for us!

With Love,

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Mar 22 - 20135 Months In and Counting

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In response to Super Storm Sandy, I showed up here on the East Coast, with friend DJ Struntz, on Nov 1st 2012. As we round out the 5 month mark I find myself still deeply entrenched in a way that I've only ever felt once before - during our work in Haiti, post earthquake. I remember hitting the 6 month mark in there and feeling very disconnected with the rest of the world… most likely, because I (literally) was. But I've been having the same feelings here lately. Though here on the North East I am not living in a tent or traversing bumpy dirt roads like I was in Haiti, I still have the same feelings of being slightly unhooked from the rest of the world. That said, obviously anytime we truly apply ourselves to something, it's very easy to get lost in it… It's also the nature of the path I've chosen… or let me rephrase that - the one that chose me!

It's the little things that help us stay grounded… for me it's been the (somewhat) regular surf sessions I've managed to have throughout the cold winter… and the people from the world I somewhat left behind that have visited me. They have served as great reminders of what my "norm" once looked like - where I came from and what my roots are made up of. I'm all for reinvention and the evolutionary process that we call life, but without a solid grasp on how we get from one chapter to the next we've got nothing. To understand our growth we must first be conscious of the steps that lead us there.

Now let's get down to the nitty gritty…

Our Hurricane Sandy Relief initiative has been organic and guerrilla in nature - just like all of our other global projects. We have applied the same gusto and sensibilities and achieved great results…

We have compiled our first impact report for this initiative, which I will let speak for itself - but basically it outlines the programs and/or major categories (relief centers, home & small business restorations, monetary grants, hot meals, etc) in which we've put our funds towards; and the actual people/communities that have been impacted by them. In addition to the things listed on the report there are a number of spontaneous initiatives that we continue to do each week. They may not necessarily become ongoing programs for us but they are great relief initiatives all the same. A couple I'd like to mention as of recent are the Coney Island Firehouse supply drive and the Farmers Market at our 96th St relief center in Rockaway.

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We learned of the Coney Island Firehouse situation through one of the fireman, Bradach Walsh (also co-founder of Rockaway Beach Surf Club), stationed there that lives in Rockaway. Basically their house got completely thrashed by Sandy. They lost virtually everything in it and to top it off (for whatever unknown bureaucratic reason) the entire house had been running on a generator until just a month or so ago. Seriously?! An FDNY house running on a generator…? These are the dudes that we need in fighting shape first so they can be there for the community should anything else happen. It's so damn obvious I feel stupid even writing it. They also lost everything in the house that made it a habitable place for them - refrigerator, work out equip, tools, furniture, computers, etc - all of which the guys stipend their paychecks into a general fund to buy! So after some time getting the Battalion Chief to let us help… they finally gave us the list of lost/damaged items. They had no expectations and I just said we will do our best at getting some of the things replaced for them. A month or so later, with the phenomenal financial support from a partner org called Fashion Girls For Humanity we drove back to the firehouse in a box truck loaded full with brand new replacements for most of the things they lost.

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They were blown away to get all that stuff and actually invited us to eat lunch with them after in their mess hall. It was a wonderful feeling to help get these guys back on their feet and I can’t thank all involved parties (especially Kikka and Julie from FGFH) enough for partnering up with us and supporting this initiative they way they did. The Battalion Chief (same one I’ve been fostering the relationship with since the beginning) came in that day specifically for this… He was so grateful for everything and said that it was the most help they’ve gotten from ANY source since the disaster.

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Aside from just replacing the things they lost my ultimate goal for this effort was to form a genuine long term rapport/relationship with them? Well, the Chief pulled me aside at the end of our lunch and gave me his personal cell number - he said that he is making his entire Battalion and resources available to us - whatever we need just call him. It will no doubt serve as an instrumental ally throughout our process of helping to put these communities back together…

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Lastly, I'd like to mention one of the great community programs that was created at our 96th St relief center in Rockaway by it's founder, Michelle Cortez. All the super markets (but one) in Rockaway got wiped out by Sandy - there is literally no place to buy fresh veggies or fruit for an entire 60 block stretch. Most people also lost their cars to sandy too which forces them to shop at their nearest corner deli through VERY limited inventory. So Michelle decided to start a Famers Market at the center on Sundays.

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She gets all the left over veggies and fruits donated from two large weekly markets in the city and then offers them to the residents in that cut off portion of Rockaway, free of charge.

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Not much more I need to say - a brilliant repurposing of resources and a simply wonderful service to provide people who've had their lives turned upside down…

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You can download and view the recent impact report on the right column of this page under Resources.

Thanks! Jon

Jan 28 - 2013Mother Nature Doesn't Discriminate - Humans Do

Hello from the Arctic (AKA New York) . . .

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In all of my time doing disaster relief work there is one thing I can always count on -- the element of surprise. No matter how much experience I gain, I am always amazed at how I can be truly shocked time and time again…

Friday was one of those days…

I went to visit our relief center partner in Rockaway on 96th St - a normal stop on my weekly rotation throughout our NY and NJ work zones. My plan was to get updated on the results from the last round of neighborhood canvasing they did and hopefully get some new candidates for our grant and rebuild programs. This model we've established has been great so far… the relief center serves as our eyes and ears on the ground and through their thorough understanding of the community and its needs we are able to get very well vetted and accurate intel on the candidates we chose to support through our programs. It's a vein of sorts, connecting us directly to the need.

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A few of us decided to go visit a some of the homes in the area that we are currently restoring… We also had some intel on a Latino family that like so many others had been displaced and were apparently in a real bad way. According to our source they were living "pre-Sandy" in one of the Apt buildings in Rockaway that burned down. They lost everything and barely got out with their lives. We arrived to their seemingly low-income bungalow-style house. Here's the breakdown - the family we were there to visit is made up of a woman named Yesenia Castillo, her husband, and their teenage son. Yesenia is also 6 months pregnant. The three of them are living together in a little make-shift room that was once a closet - a large closet maybe, but a closet nonetheless. There are 6 others living in the house as well - this means 9 people are sharing one bathroom and kitchen, etc… The kicker is that this family is paying $450 a month for this living space. Yes they technically have a roof over their heads but the conditions are nothing short of inhumane. I can't imagine how they will possible have a newborn in there when she has her baby in a few months. It is a scenario forced upon them by heavy circumstances and strife that very few people in this country will ever understand. Yet they are surviving and pushing forward to the best of their ability.

I encounter these types of conditions quite often in my line of work… I mean the state of reality we deal with everyday in places like Haiti is often beyond comprehension… But there are just certain times when things just hit me a little harder than normal... Yesenia's case was one of those. We were sitting in the living room (community space), crammed to to hilt with stuff, and listening to her explain their situation to Michelle Cortez (one of the founders of the 96th relief center we work with). They were speaking in Spanish, while Michelle translated back to us. I didn't really need to hear the exact details anyway… It's as clear as day. Yesenia and her family, like so many others left their country to try and make a better life for themselves in America. In our system, they're classified as "illegals", but they have been here for many many years, are hard workers, and their son has already graduated from a nearby high school. Being "illegal" they are already very limited to the type of assistance they can get in general. But in the case of something like Sandy, I will put it simply - they are f*%cked! There are so many people, in every class, that need assistance and Yesenia's family will likely be lost in the chaos - searching for any hope to grab onto, but stifled time and time again by the cold hard fact that they have no rights…

This obviously broaches the much larger topics of human rights, equality, immigration, to name a few… The work we do with W4W usually in some way touches these other topics but for the most part we focus our efforts on providing real tangible and pragmatic "on-the-ground" solutions that help people quickly and efficiently. I always say that whether we're working on a development project abroad or in a disaster zone, there is usually a very clear urgency and seriousness with the situation - and we MAKE SURE to show up with the same urgency and seriousness from our end.

The simple fact is that it doesn't matter where disasters hit - the needs are always the same. Because they are human needs… we are ALL human and need the same basic things to survive. Mother nature doesn't discriminate - humans do. So in a situation like Yesenia's, they are already backed against the wall by societal boundaries, and now this Sandy situation compounds it tenfold.

I wanted to share this story with you to provide a more comprehensive snapshot into the picture at large… We are here doing our best to help people get back on their feet in the wake of Sandy. I'm happy with our results thus far… and we will continue to charge forward as best we can. We have worked very hard at developing great local networks and infrastructure to plug our programs into… people are getting help. Despite the larger systematic guidelines in this country, we will help Yesenia and her family - it is simply the right thing to do…period! I don't care if it has to come from my team and I on a personal basis, we will help them.

A few key stats from our W4W Sandy Relief Initiative to date:

Over $3,000,000 in donated supplies distributed throughout the hardest hit communities in New Jersey and New York. $100,000+ in grants to over 20 families and small business owners - and now we're on a disbursement schedule of about 3-5 grants per week. 5 home restoration projects under way - two of which, are almost complete. Plus, we have approved 7 more new sites that will be starting in the next few weeks. Facilitated over 5000 volunteers for demo, cleanup, and canvassing efforts. 30,000+ cooked meals served.

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We are working on our comprehensive progress report that we will be releasing and posting to the site within the next couple weeks but I wanted to share some of these stats with you now because we are really proud of them and ever so thankful to all of you who have helped support this initiative.

More to come…

Thanks! Jon

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Jan 06 - 2013Forward Momentum in 2013

It's a new day… a new year...

I want to begin by wishing a happy new year to all my friends and family that have supported W4W, and more specifically, our Sandy Relief Initiative thus far…

We've been on the ground here in NY/NJ since day one of the Sandy relief efforts. I have seen every level of destruction and despair - homes ripped clear off their foundations... businesses broken beyond repair... and people tested in ways they could have never imagined. We have made it our mission to help these people get back on their feet and restore the lives they once had. We realize that the needs are seemingly endless, but we also realize that we can (and will) get there… together.

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We, as a group, are making good progress... significant things are getting done each week... the hard work IS making a difference.

This type of event is humbling beyond words… day in and day out I feel deeply moved by the overwhelming scale of what has happened... but with this humility, comes clarity. The vision of what's possible has never been more clear to me. We have all the pieces in place to make real long lasting positive impact throughout this entire recovery process...

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Over the holidays I thought a lot about the significance of our actions - big and small… individually and collectively… I thought about the model we have created to confront all of the challenges brought on by Sandy… Building grass roots relief networks from the ground up. Local initiatives that are all aligned and connected through a central focus (W4W), but are thriving on their own - addressing the specific needs of their community as they come up, rather than operating under a generic blanketed approach like most traditional relief strategies.

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We have watched the game change before our eyes… I can't begin to describe the satisfaction of watching the municipalities and authorities in various communities reach out to our crews for advice on what the next steps should be. The same authorities who never took surfers (and their culture) seriously, are now looking to them for guidance and stability throughout this recovery process… As I've said before, there are a lot of reasons why this is all working the way it is - most of the towns that got rocked the hardest are coastal surf/beach-lifestyle communities and in my opinion it's only natural that the people most connected to the ocean would be the most proactive… it's all a ripple effect - if the beaches (and all that goes along with them) are back up and running then so is the tourism - and the local economy that supports everything, thereafter. Then there's also the engrained DNA that comes with people of the ocean - a tendency to go towards things that the masses would consider dangerous (or at the very least, extremely difficult). It is an ethic that stems from battling the elements to enjoy the thing(s) that makes you most happy… it's a process that is only experienced by people that have a true relationship and understanding with nature - and her force. I honestly believe that this dynamic has been the deciding difference in helping to change the outdated models of relief work, while rewriting stereotypes in the process. I can say, without a shadow of doubt, that we've never had access to these types of people and resources during a relief initiative before…

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That said, I want to quickly shed light on some of the more recent developments we've made since I last wrote.

We have officially created and launched two new programs -

1.) W4W Community Uplift Program - a straight monetary compensation program that we created to offer $2500 and $5000 grants to certain individuals/families that have endured an unthinkable level of hardship due to Sandy. In most cases people need money… plain and simple. Through our relief center partners each target community, we've been getting lists of candidates that qualify under our program criteria. The rest is simple - we get them either a $2500 or $5000 grant depending on their level of hardship and send them on their way. It becomes nothing short of an old fashioned stimulus program that can help people that have hit rock-bottom - restore homes, pay rent/sec deposit on a new place, pay off credit card bills, or simply put food on the table. It is often the deciding factor from a psychological standpoint, that can help renew faith and keep people energized so they don't crumble all together.

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2.) W4W Restore and Rebuild Program - a construction based initiative that we oversee and manage from start to finish (usually a $20K cap per site). We bring in our own contractor partners to look at households or small businesses we've selected and they give us a detailed line-item bid of what it will take to get everything restored. Then we decide (with the home/business owner) what the most pressing items are and have our team do those ASAP. There are so many houses/businesses, with so many problems… and since we do not have a limitless amount of funds, we obviously can't do everything. But what we have found is that in most cases there are a few paramount items that are holding up the entire process… yes it usually stems from a lack of funds to get these services done, but there are some things that are simply easier than others - people are more likely to find a way of getting floors put in than being able to get plumbing or electrical done. It's simple math, but it's also a lack of resources as a whole. So when we look into restoring a place it's more about choosing the most essential things that will then unblock the rest of the progress and allow people to fill in the other (less critical) holes, themselves, over time.

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I'd like to leave you with a letter that came in from our first recipient of the W4W Community Uplift Program (out of respect for privacy, their names shall remain anonymous). Since then, we've granted funds to four more families and started restoration projects on three additional homes through our W4W Restore and Rebuild Program. Lastly, between these two programs we have eight more families (and counting!) confirmed and slated for this coming week as well… *I may have shared already shared this letter with some of you, but feel like it's something everyone should see.

This letter is a good reminder of exactly why we do what we do... Plain and simple...

Jon & W4W, I hope the holidays are treating you well. I can't begin to thank you enough for the check Waves4Water gave me. The day of our last meeting when I talked to ________, that was the absolute bottom of the barrel day for me & my family. The only money we had was what was in my pocket. The insurance co just gave us the latest excuse on why we haven't received a dime yet. That was when I finally cracked. Up until that day I worked hard, helped others, stayed positive & tried to lead the charge. Your generosity not only saved us from disaster but it also re-energized me. The only way I can repay you is to continue to do what I've been doing since the day after the storm. I'm focused & committed to not only getting my family into our home but also getting the people of the area back into their homes as soon as possible. Hopefully I'll see you soon so I can thank you in person.

Last but not least I want to leave you with a link to a film that Transition Productions put together on Hurricane Sandy - through the eyes of surfers. It's called East Coast Rising and I think they did a great job on it. Please feel free to share it - East Coast Rising

Thanks! Jon

Dec 12 - 2012 Hello from the Field

Hello from the field…

I have said this many times before, but nothing replaces time. The greatest effort one can put forth in my line of work is good old fashioned hours. It is very simple - if you fully commit yourself and do the hard time, everything you need will come as a result. We have done a lot of things to provide relief to some of the hardest hit areas since the onset of Sandy, but the most valuable thing we have done is simply be there. It's been the same everywhere I've worked in the world - all of the greatest developments throughout our relief efforts come organically by showing up every day and doing the work.

Example - I was out in Rockaway the other day doing the seemingly simple task of delivering some diesel to one of our relief center partners for their generator. I then got an urgent call from the shipping container company that said the container we ordered was in the area and ready to be dropped off. We had been waiting for that container for a week and it wasn't scheduled for delivery for another two days. There was a mixup and the driver was in Rockaway and ready to deliver.

The purpose of the container is part of our strategy to set up a distribution network in all of the hardest hit areas. Basically, we have our warehouses in NY and NJ that receive all sorts of donated supplies - then the idea is that we'd drop shipping containers directly on ground zero of the hardest hit areas and fill them up periodically with the supplies from the warehouse. Then the local relief centers we work with in each of these areas have access to the container so they can get supplies as needed. This way they can act quickly when they learn of a family that has a specific need - all they have to do is run over to the container, get the supplies, and then go drop them with the family. We are constantly updating what we put in the containers based off the current intel we get from the relief centers, so the whole thing becomes a very streamlined and targeted operation. That said, we already have one of the containers directly in the center of LBI (NJ) and the crew down there have been utilizing it brilliantly - getting people in those communities the supplies they need and also using it for storage of demo tools for the volunteer groups they manage. So the Rockaway container was next on our list and showed up two days early!

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Had I not been in the area to receive it and connect with the construction yard where we got permission to store it, the driver would have had to turn around… just a simple example of just showing up every day and the quick actions that pop up and need attention. But the real development happened when I met the person in charge of the construction site where we got the container delivered to and will keep it thereafter. It was a guy named Nick Masem - an executive at a big development group called the Beechwood Organization. They had recently developed a neighborhood in Rockaway called Arverne by the Sea. But once Sandy hit they went into charity mode helping where they could just like everyone else… They have an entire team of sub-contractors at their disposal from mold re-mediators to plumbers, builders, and electricians. They are able to restore a house in a few days and were doing it at a fraction of the normal prices as their way to assist in the relief efforts. Moving forward these types of services are going to be the single most important asset to the recovery process. In some cases there are already pockets on homes that are ready for some level of rebuilding and/or restorations.

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We are currently in the process of identifying certain residential and small business candidates in the areas we're working that we would like to help rebuild. In some cases it's a family that for a number of reasons finds themselves in a truly dire predicament - home completely damaged, no flood ins, denied by FEMA, and are now jobless because their work space in the community was damaged as well… sadly enough these cases are many and we cannot help them all, but we can help some. And the missing link for us is finding a building partner that can execute the work and work with us on a reduced rate… Well, Beechwood was absolutely fired up to be that partner and were looking just the same for a credible NGO that they could get more locations from. I talked to the owner of the company later that day and he was so enthusiastic about doing this program with us. He said they naturally have their big for-profit ventures still plugging away but that, in addition, through our program they could use all of their resources, and ultimately do what they do best for the greater good. Both he and Nick are stellar guys and I can't wait to do our first rebuild with them… !

All of this came simply by being in the field that day delivering diesel to a relief center. It was huge progress in an instant… and truly a testament to doing the one thing in all of this that, in my opinion, is a non-negotiable - showing up, day in and day out!

Some other notable actions that we've helped to facilitate recently have been the tireless volunteer groups that Joe Woerner has been organizing in the Ortley Beach and Lavalette areas as well as the ones organized by Joe Mangino & Jon Coen in LBI. These efforts have been shining examples of people rising to the occasion to do what has to be done to rebuild their communities.

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Also, the Restore the Shore crew (of whom we work with) have been on fire! I can't say enough good things about these folks. They had the brilliant idea of trying to protect every volunteer group (not just ours) that was heading over the bridge in Point Pleasant last weekend - so we decided to buy 400 full safety outfits (Tyvek suits, gloves, double cartridge 3m respirators, and eye protection) and park a truck right at the entrance to to bridge saying "FREE SAFTEY GEAR". The crew gave them to countless volunteer groups that passed by and were out of our stock in 1 hr.

Free Safety Gear

The last, shout out I want to give is to both crews who have so graciously donated their warehouse space and facilities to us since day one - Ergo/RestoreTheShore in NJ and Rogan/Loomstate in NY. Without these, hundreds of families would not have any of the much needed supplies we've been able to provide them… Honestly, these warehouses have been one of the single most important efforts we've done and on behalf of W4W I want to say a BIG thank you again…

Lastly, I want to say another BIG thanks to all of you who have supported us so far… You contributions have been instrumental in the recovery process and have directly impacted so many of the families in need. I am humbled by the ongoing generosity by all of you…

Thanks! Jon

Nov 13 - 2012Update from Ground Zero


Here's the latest update from ground zero.

As I've stated before, my goal with our relief initiative here is to help facilitate all the great grass roots efforts that are already happening - to amplify the positive effects of local efforts - to build and coordinate a coalition of efforts that can all work side-by-side in helping to get Hurricane Sandy victims what they need.

I have been blown away by the performance of all the local groups out here that have stepped up and lead really effective efforts. On Tuesday we held a 'round table' meeting in Brooklyn - comprised mostly of friends I've made in the area over the many years of coming here.

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It's pretty simple, I'm not from here, so would never pretend that I now what's best for a community that I don't have much experience in. I approach our work around the world the same way. It's always more appropriate to build a network of local residents that know the lay of the land, and the many local nuances. An army rarely loses a war when it takes place on its home turf!

Not only did all who had been invited to the meeting show up, but each brought 1-2 more invested players into the mix. In the end the group was 20+ incredibly motivated and intelligent people. The ideas they had, and their means to execute them, were exceptional. I basically wanted to offer W4W to them as a resource to help sustain ongoing efforts and facilitate their new ideas & initiatives.

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Our approach is to continue to create a central command to funnel everything through, so our field operations can be streamlined, without duplication of efforts. Simply put, the core of our strategy is to look at all the efforts going on, find the holes in them, and leverage W4W to fill them. I left our meeting energized and inspired by the goodness of humanity … And after marinating on things for a bit I set a silent goal for W4W to try and facilitate at least one tangible and quantifiable action per day… for the following week.

Here's an example of a few of them…

As you know, there is a severe lack of gas in Long Beach and surrounding communities.

I understand that the damages are so widespread it's hard for the authorities and aid groups to assist everyone - but when we went through Long Beach and met up with our POC's (pillars of the local surf community) - Mike Nelson (Unsound Surf Shop), the Skudin brothers (Will & Cliff), and Brian Anthony - they had received little to ZERO help at all … plus the added stress of no Gasoline.

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People don't understand that there is still NO electricity here - it's freezing at night and there is just so much to do that it's hard to determine where to begin. With each passing day, flooded homes that are not getting cleaned out get more over grown with mold – you can imagine - and borderline toxic. Some homes still have water in their basements and if that water freezes with the looming Nor-Easter's that are set to come, a whole new level of problems will arise for these already compromised homes.

In some cases people haven't bathed or washed their clothes in two weeks. And they can't even begin to think about demo-ing the damaged parts of their homes when they have no manpower, or tools to do so. These are just a few of the issues in one small portion of the disaster zones. Believe me, I’ve already gone through this in Haiti after the big earthquake, but never could have imagined such neglect here at home.

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So in an effort to spark some momentum and get a quick win, we had a couple badass Jersey boys get six 25 gal gas cans filled down south, and smuggle supplies to ground zero, guerrilla style, in a pickup truck. Our goal is to get each crew (from Rockaway to Long Beach), that have been mobilizing and helping their communities, fully stocked with gas for their cars and generators - so they can continue to help their people.

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Fairly simple and easy concept, yet semi-dangerous & sort of illegal - but Andrew Lewis and Andrew Gesler from NJ stepped up and got it done! These boys are champs!! This is the type of character that it takes to bulldog through challenges in any disaster situation - identifying the problem and fast-tracking appropriate solutions - but most importantly - under the radar and far away from typical bureaucratic gridlock that we have all come up against before in critical situations like these we’re facing now.

Basic, real time, problem solving - people helping people - and our contribution is gathering intel from ground zero areas, then getting all appropriate resources that come in, to those who need them most, NOW.

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Another example of this was learning about a group of 100 (well organized) volunteers from Stoked Mentoring that were ready and willing to go out to Rockaway and help clear houses, but had no means of transportation to get there. So we rented two 50 person buses (thanks Daniel Stonier!) to get them there. Again, noticing what’s missing, finding the hole in the equation, and filling it. In my opinion, by coordinating efforts with targeted objectives, this is how we will start seeing real improvements.

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After we got the sad info on how little the Long Beach area had been helped, we also, helped direct more volunteer groups from the city to go up and meet with our POC's there. The results were heart felt and inspiring. See the below email that came in after one of those groups helped a Long Beach neighborhood:

Dearest Waves for Water,

Can't thank you enough, and all your volunteers. My first cousin was totally drained and desperate, losing much of her house in Long Beach, NY with Sandy..... tired and exhausted after 10 days of wandering and helplessness...... your volunteers completely changed her life and brought a huge smile into her sore heart.... and were most helpful cleaning out her garage, etc....

Beautiful work, beautiful humanity... at it's best....

in deep Appreciation and gratitude,

Anthony Donovan

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On behalf of W4W I can say, we are happy to help - though I will NOT take the credit at all for these efforts. All we are doing is helping facilitate the crews that are stepping up to help their communities… Any appreciation for these efforts should go to them directly. People like Joy, Tyler, Greg, Nick, Chris, Brian, Julie, just to name a few… They are an exceptional crew and I'm happy to play even a small part in their efforts...

More to come…



Nov 04 - 2012Field Report – First Few Days

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I would like to share some updates from our first few days on the front lines. We spent the better part of day one assessing the Jersey Shore barrier Islands and helping local legend Sam Hammer and his family board up their restaurant in Seaside, New Jersey - mainly to keep looters out and to prepare for the next storm coming on Wednesday.

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Yes, that's right, another Nor-Easter is coming with projected winds of up to 50 mph.

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No families remain on the island, as most of it is ruined - and the few families left will be evacuated shortly. The authorities are saying no one will be allowed back for 8 months minimum. It has been surreal to witness everyday the infamous Jersey Shore boardwalk and Casino Pier, mangled beyond recognition. I can't imagine what it was like for Sam to look at his home-break and see a roller coaster sitting in the line-up where he normally catches his waves.

On the very first day, we were able to get an initial feel for what the scale of damage actually is - and what the specific steps to recovery will be need to be. And it just felt damn good to help a fellow comrade in need. It's just basic human compassion for one another and a deep sense of the greater good of all living beings. It's in our DNA, and sometimes it takes adversity to remind us of this. It was a good day and the Hammer family will no doubt persevere.

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On day two we went to Staten Island with a bunch of supplies that were specific to the needs of that area. We saw great devastation there, too. But also we found many people mobilized and volunteering, doing their part. There was such an unexpected, organized, feel to it - so when we rocked up to a product distribution drop site we saw all the goods being separated into categories, and teams of volunteers taking items into neighborhoods, going door to door. It was awesome!. Because of research done days prior, we were able to be very targeted with the items we supplied and, of course, the distribution hub leaders were over-the-moon when they received us and our supplies.

Again, the whole experience was incredible, to asses and catalog, for later strike missions we have planned. That's what this whole operation has been about - thinking very streamlined - making smart and calculated decisions every step of the way. The second half of the day was spent at a warehouse that local, Pete Despirito, gave us to receive, store, and distribute donations from. What champs he and his team are! Less than 24 hrs after securing the space with him we had three truckloads of donated goods coming in from surrounding regions. One crew from Pennsylvania, one from Connecticut, and one from NY. He then had a crew of 15 volunteers sorting through all the goods and putting them into categories, that next would be boxed and put on pallets.

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We basically have an organized stockpile of aid supplies ready to be distributed to those in need. And with all the intel that comes in each day from our networks up and down the coast we can now appropriate the supplies according to each of their specific needs. It's a model that we're incredibly proud of, and will replicate with our warehouse spaces in Long Island and other grass roots satellite hubs in some of the smaller regions that were hit, such as the towns in Southern Jersey.

Big props to Pete and his crew for all the hard work they are doing day & night at the warehouse. And another shout-out to Nick Bricker in South Jersey, who has stepped up big time and mobilized his community - setting up product distro's, organizing fundraisers, and gathering intel for us.

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Gotta mention Sam Hammer again. Providing us much needed shelter every night and being very instrumental in organizing our daily efforts. And also: DJ Struntz for capturing so many of the moments we've had together - with his camera.

Lastly, to all the people who have been writing in, spreading the word, and donating time and resources. THANK YOU - will keep you looped into our efforts.

No doubt, it's a a long road ahead, but, one foot in front of the other, we will get there….

Tired and content… signing off… for now. 


Nov 03 - 2012Greetings from Ground Zero

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Since launching our initiative to help with the ongoing relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. I've had a vision for our efforts here and we plan to focus even more as days and weeks go by. I believe that W4W can serve as a vehicle for the surf industry to rally behind and channel it's support through, offering a strong and relentless mission targeting specifically the surf/beach communities that lost everything. My hope is that we, as a collective, will all look back in a few years and know that we came together for the greater good, and that we made a REAL measurable impact in the recovery. 

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I see the long term strategy for this recovery effort needs to be a three-stage roll-out plan. 

1st stage:  Most likely, 1-2 months -- First response - essential supplies to sustain people until infrastructure is restored. Emergency supply decisions are based on the intel we get from all the assessments we're doing in each problem area. For people who have had flooding damage, it's cleaning and demolition supplies (shovels, sledgehammers, masks, contractor bags, gloves, shop-vac's, bleach, brooms, mops, etc). Then stuff to keep people warm, since the power is still out - blankets & jackets, etc. And finally other basic essentials - batteries, flashlights, baby supplies, toiletries, etc. Basically it's all the things we NEED in life and none of the things we don't! 

2nd stage:  3-6 months -- Rubble removal. There is so much debris and damaged property that needs to be cleared away. We need to band together to move it out as quickly and efficiently as possible - NOW. If that's renting a fleet of trucks and getting a ton of volunteers to load them up, then so be it. No matter what, the faster we can clear the areas where homes used to be the sooner new ones can go up. Seeing rubble disappear is a big psychological boost - creating a clean slate from which to start anew. Can't over emphasize the importance to action now. The people are here - ready to work, to make a difference.

3rd stage: 6-12 months -- Rebuilding. This is where we will focus our resources and put efforts into (for ex.) helping a local surfing family who has served as a pillar of their community for generations, rebuild their surf shop or home. We want to make sure that the surfing heritage in these areas is restored and rebuilt, so these amazing people will continue to be a source of inspiration for years to come. 

So that's a quick snapshot of the long-term roll-out plan. I fully commit W4W to this and will see it through personally until we see surf shops and beach towns along this coast again.

Statistics & Progress

Destination Northeastern Seaboard - United States

Funds Raised $1,393,819

Potential Lives Affected 350,000+


Meredith Strauss
Donated: $25

Gilbert Gesualdi
Donated: $10

Marcie Howard
Donated: $25

Aleece Commerford
Donated: $2,000

William Agrella
Donated: $25

Samuel Lovell
Donated: $100

Ryan Mcginley
Donated: $250

Donated $20

Melissa Lekus
Donated: $40

Donated $25