FEMA Officials Praise Hoopa Service Teams
By KRISTAN KORNS, Two Rivers Tribune
Hoopa AmeriCorps and Tribal Civilian Community Corps (TCCC) members were praised by U.S. government officials for their hard work and dedication as part of the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in New York.
Donald Caetano, Region II External Affairs Director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said, “These AmeriCorps kids are champions. I’m in awe of their hard work and dedication.”
Hoopa AmeriCorps and TCCC members managed relief efforts at shelters in Manhattan, Long Island, West Bronx, and the Bronx in New York.
Tahsanchat Cooper, Hoopa AmeriCorps and TCCC Program Director, said, “These guys worked really hard. The stuff that they saw and heard and felt had a huge impact on them.”
Hurricane Sandy swept across seven countries in the Caribbean before going ashore near Atlantic City, NJ, killing at least 253 people.
The storm surge of the hurricane hit New York City on Oct. 29, cutting power and flooding streets, tunnels, and subway lines.
Tens of thousands of people were left stranded or without homes.
Many people were evacuated to shelters because of flooding, power outages, lack of heat, or because their homes were destroyed.
“Most people there didn’t have homeowner’s insurance,” Cooper said. “So when the storm took it, it really took it.”
Mercedes Porter, a Hoopa TCCC member since August, said their job was to make sure that everything was safe in the shelters.
“They really needed us,” Porter said. “I felt really good about being there and being able to help.”
The AmeriCorps and Hoopa TCCC members prepared the shelters, set up cots, handed out blankets and food and water, and worked 12 hour shifts providing a safe environment for evacuees.
Cooper said, “When you’re dealing with 400 people in a shelter, it’s no joke. These guys got limited sleep and had to step up to the plate and make things work.”
Cesar Flores, project manager for TCCC, said that the Corps members worked to make the evacuees feel at home, but also had to keep the peace.
“There were a few times that there’d be domestic violence or other disturbances,” Flores said.
On their last day in New York, the Corps members were called on to help unload two Russian cargo airplanes full of donated blankets.
“We helped unload the two cargo planes full of 20,000 blankets into four semi-trailers,” Flores said. “That’s when we got that letter of recommendation from FEMA.”
Porter said, “It was the most physically demanding task we did.”
The AmeriCorps and TCCC teams were brought back to Hoopa for Thanksgiving, and at least one team is scheduled to return to the East Coast on Dec. 6, to continue helping with relief efforts.
Flores said, “I felt that we responded with quickness and we were able to help the survivors, and everyone across the board did a really great job.”