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One week after Superstorm Sandy, many neighborhoods in the tri-state area are still struggling to rebuild. While national organizations such as the Red Cross are targeting areas that are hardest hit, locally based community foundations throughout New York and New Jersey have mobilized to make a difference in the neighborhoods they call home.
In Rockland County, this task has fallen to the Rockland Community Foundation, a growing non-profit organization that has been supporting charitable causes in the county.
"Superstorm Sandy has demonstrated the importance of having emergency funds in place that can provide immediate assistance," explained President Pat Byrne. "While national non-profits provide a vital function, their efforts are broad-based. The benefit of a community foundation is that it has the ability to focus relief efforts within its own neighborhood, where funds will have an immediate, local impact. In the case of the Rockland Community Foundation, 100% of all donations we receive to any of our funds stay right here in the county, where they are used to help make a difference in the place we all call home."
Community Foundations have been in existence in the US since 1914. Currently there are over 700 such foundations operating in communities nationwide, and with over $35 billion in assets they make up one of the fastest growing sectors of philanthropy in the U.S.
Community Foundations fund a wide variety of causes, from individuals and families in need, to teaching and education, to the arts, parks, and more. Their commonality is that their funds remain in the communities they serve. While many non-profit organizations use a combination of government and private funds to support their efforts, community foundations fund programs exclusively through private donations.
In response to Superstorm Sandy, the Rockland Community Foundation established the Community Crisis Relief Fund.
"Right after Sandy hit, we knew there would be a need for help in our community," Byrne noted. "We established our emergency funds the next day, and are already taking applications for support from individuals and non-profits."
The fund was immediately followed by the establishment of the North Rockland Disaster Recovery Fund, created by co-president of the Rockland Young Dems Joe Coe, in response to the pressing need for assistance in Haverstraw, West Haverstraw and Stony Point.
"As a young professional who lives and works in Rockland County, I felt it was important to support our neighbors in this crisis," said Coe. "Because of this, I convened the leadership of the Rockland County Young Democrats and we collectively decided to start a fund for the residents of North Rockland who were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. It was only logical to partner with the Rockland Community Foundation."
Two existing funds within the Foundation, Active International's "Active Cares Fund" and the Rockland Boulders "Boulders Fund" were also activated by their advisors to provide additional assistance.
"When a major natural disaster hits an entire region, national relief organizations deploy their resources throughout the region," said Diane Serratore, Executive Director of People to People, Rockland's largest food pantry. "When a major natural disaster hits home, our homes, local nonprofits providing emergency assistance look to community foundations such as the Rockland Community Foundation to support vital relief efforts right here in Rockland. At the end of the day, it's neighbors helping neighbors - that's what People to People is all about - and we can't do what we do to assist struggling Rocklanders without the support of the Rockland Community Foundation."
Assistance during times of need is one of the benefits a local foundation brings to its area. Last year for example, the Vermont Community Foundation mobilized in response to the devastation caused to the state by Hurricane Irene, collecting millions of dollars in donations to help rebuild family farms and homes lost due to extensive flooding. In New York City, the New York Community Trust is currently using its donor funds to assist in relief efforts to help victims of Superstorm Sandy in the five boroughs.
The Rockland Community Foundation is depending upon the generosity of Rockland individuals and businesses to contribute to its Crisis Relief Fund, so it can continue to provide grant assistance locally, to individuals and non-profits in need.
"Now that many of us have lights and heat, we forget that there are still individuals in our county who are being impacted by this storm, as well as the nor'easter that followed," Byrne continued. "We need to ensure that non-profits are able to continue to provide the basic services these people need. We are urging Rockland businesses and individuals to donate generously to our Crisis Funds so that we can get funding to where it will make the most impact."
The Rockland Community Foundation will be working to make a difference in the county long after the affects of Sandy are gone, with funds that continue to address a wide range of charitable needs.
As Joe Coe explained, "In crisis and in not, I hope to continue working with the Rockland Community Foundation to help grow philanthropy in our community. Whether people donate $5 or $5,000, every bit counts, and every donation adds to our ability to help those in need. "
For more information, to make a donation, or to apply for grant assistance, visit the Rockland Community Foundation website at www.rocklandgives.org. Donations can also be mailed to PO Box 323, New City, NY 10956.
Rockland Community Foundation