It's a difficult to understand disasters and the aftermath. We see them on cable stations and our local news stations. Homes that are ripped from foundations in tornadoes, buildings bought to rubble in earthquakes, tsunamis that roar through villages leaving death tolls that become just a figure. That is till you're in one. Pictures don't show the smell of mold and tears of many too proud to realize that our lives are forever imprinted with a nightmare.My name is Liz Treston, I live in Long Beach, NY. October 29, 2012 seems so distant for many that did not have the Atlantic come surging through it's city and front door. We were lost, devastated by the sheer destruction. We're also stereotypical New Yorkers. We wanted things fixed and back to normal the next day. We were in for a sad awakening.I don't know how we met. I was helping my neighbors gather information from disaster relief groups. There were many names. There are many souls upon this planet given a calling that says I refuse to let others give up. There will be hope and a tomorrow.My hope and a number of souls came to City, in a white van with NECHAMA written on the side. My family was assessing our damage. It was cold. We were lucky in many ways no one was hurt. The van stopped at my house. I was expecting another offer a water and a meal as I protected myself in a cocoon of uncertainty."We're here to help", said a young man. His face clean shaven and his hands with recent callouses. "Think we're okay". I knew their were others who were in worse shape then myself. When you're in the thick of the guts of your house laying in the street you don't think clearly. You worry about others. Maybe this man saw my soul. He slipped me a card and said to call when I was ready. I gave him the names of neighbors that I knew needed more help.That's what happens. You see kindness and a glimmer of a sense that things will be okay.In a few months it will be 4 years since Superstorm Sandy slid up from the South and stole out houses. It never stole our souls though because of the men and women from places that come to post disaster areas like NECHAMA.I hope that you can give to this incredible selfless group. You truly never know when a disaster will come. I am glad to know that when the water recedes NECHAMA will be there for you. When the water did recede in Long Beach I became an active member in learning and disseminating information. With the guidance of Dorothy Maples and others from the Long Term Recovery Groups we started our own non-profit to help our residents prepare for future emergencies. Again without NECHAMA and it's continuous efforts across boundaries and borders too many souls will feel lost. Help them let those in disaster areas find their way home.
I have had the great fortune of volunteering with NECHAMA for 15 years. While I am the Board (though I swore that I would never attend another meeting after I retired) my real passion is working as a volunteer in the field after the disaster. This is where I meet and work with some of the greatest people in the world -- both the other volunteers and our clients, the disaster victims. NECHAMA has built it's reputation based on the simple principle of "how can we continue to provide better service to our clients ..... those who have lost so much, so suddenly. The staff, though incredibly small in number, are among the most dedicated and compassionate people I have known. I can not count how many times I have heard a spontaneous comment from a volunteer say, "This has been a life changing experience. I certainly has for me!!
An amazing organization that takes the eternal values of the Jewish tradition as learned through our texts and applies them directly with our hands and feet! This is an important way to make the world a better place especially when people are in the midst of the challenge of recovery than to be present to them through the work of NECHAMA!
Recently I joined Nechema on their deployment in the Atlanta, Georgia area following the flash floods that occurred there in early October. The day began with helping to do the final spray washing and sterilizing of a home that had already been cleared. It was hard and at times, messy work, but everyone pitched in and did whatever was needed. While there, a man approached us to ask if we could possibly help his neighbor. The operations manager, who was very welcoming and easy going, explained the procedure. A short time later, the neighbor came and we began to clean out his house. Along the way, we removed soggy walls, insulation and contents that had not yet been cleared out. On the lawn were still many personal belongings. As we carefully picked them up, we would check with the owner to ask if he wanted to keep them. It was clearly a difficult process for this gentleman. As the day wore on and his home was slowly gutted, it was possible to see a small flicker of hope in the midst of his shock. It was amazing to be with Nechama, a group of volunteers ready to assist in helping people find their way to recovery. With all the work being done at no charge and all by volunteers, the sense of Tikun was not only real in the physical transformation of the homes, but also in the personal sense both for the victims and for the volunteers.
The survey lets you pick one "Role" from the list - "Volunteer", "Client", "Board Member", etc. I have been fortunate to have been at one time, ALL of the above choices. As a volunteer, I worked in New Orleans. As an employee, I worked in Western Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and South Dakota. As a board member, I worked in Southern Minnesota, Northern Minnesota and Minneapolis. And as a client right in my own home and neighborhood. The reason I am a board member now is because Nechama so intimately touched my heart, soul and existence that I had to be a part of the organization. I simply cannot put into words what Nechama has done for me. Nechama mucked and mopped out my house, and Nechama mucked and mopped out my life. Working for them was the best thing I ever did. Nechama is small, but pound for pound, it is the most effective non-profit ever. You will never find a non-profit of this size with this much reach and impact.
I joined the Board of NECHAMA in November 2009 moved by the mission to provide clean up and recovery services to uninsured and under-insured homeowners in the aftermath of flooding and devastating wind related storm damage and to represent the Jewish community in providing these services. During my tenure with NECHAMA, I have come to understand the critical role that faith based organizations like NECHAMA play in our national system of emergency management and disaster recovery by coordinating with national, state and local emergency management professionals, recruiting and supervising volunteers, providing much needed equipment and manpower, and doing the hands on work necessary to help disaster ravaged communities begin the recovery and rebuilding process. NECHAMA has a stellar reputation among emergency management professionals and disaster recovery organizations nationwide for its response and readiness capabilities, willingness to oversee unaffiliated volunteers, and willingness and ability to train other volunteer organizations to perform recovery work. The work of NECHAMA is gratifying not only for the comfort and support our work brings to disaster survivors and their communities without regard to religion, race or economic circumstances, but also because NECHAMA provides a positive reflection of the Jewish community and Jewish values to the community at large, affords members of our community a platform to live out their Jewish values by helping with disaster recovery as donors or volunteers, and builds bridges between members of the Jewish community and other ethnic and faith based groups as we work side by side for the common good.
A friend of ours inspired us with the idea of participating in ‘good work’ by giving some combination of the 3 T’s – giving of our Time, Treasure, and/or Talent. We all have something to give – and it is our privilege and indeed a Mitzvah (Hebrew for “commandment”) to do so. Being involved in NECHAMA fulfills our desire to participate in Tikkun Olam, the imperative to repair the world – which reflects the Jewish values of Justice, Compassion, and Peace. In fact, NECHAMA derives its mission from this Jewish value. Volunteering with NECHAMA is the perfect family activity. With our three children ranging in age from 18-23, we still enjoy sharing activities that reinforce our family values and provide opportunities for the family to work together on meaningful projects. Shell Lake and Siren, WI and a total of 12 weeks in New Orlens, LA gave us a wide range of expiriences and introduced us to many wonderful people, both volunteers and clients. Our involvement with NECHAMA reminds us of the things we need to think about on a daily basis – and be thankful for.
I have been involved for years and have been on deployments from North Dakota to Georga and the work they do is Life changing
Nechama has changed my life. Because of my experiences with Nechama since 1993 I have learned the importance of relationships and the lack of importance of material items. I have benefited from the "doing"" vs the talking. I have met incredable people and have made lifetime friendships. I have been rewarded with large amounts of psychic income by helping victims of natural disasters. My life has been richly rewarded by my involvement in this organization representing the Jewish Community at the time of disasters helping those in the greatest need.
Nechama gets disaster victims started on the road to recovery. Volunteers work in teams to clean out debris from homes. Nechama's goal is to help those with the greatest need, and volunteers from every background, with or without experience are welcome to join.