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United By Blue ‘Sandy’ Cleanup: The Full Volunteer Experience
Philly

United By Blue ‘Sandy’ Cleanup: The Full Volunteer Experience

united by blue sandy cleanup effortsUnited by Blue (UBB) pledges to remove one pound of trash for every product sold. But these Philly-based philanthropists don’t just stop at oceans… They help when it matters most.

This past Saturday, 100 volunteers school-‘bussed’ their way up to Staten Island, New York for Hurricane Sandy assistance efforts. Since I wanted to get involved with the UBB cleanups, I went along to volunteer.

The bus departed Philly’s United by Blue headquarters in the morning after waking up with coffee and granola snacks. We arrived in Midland Beach, one of the hardest hit areas by Hurricane Sandy in Staten Island. As soon as we headed to the Community Center for a quick slice of pizza, we absorbed the entire vibe of neighbors, retired police officers & “Occupy Sandy” teams hard at work.

Staten Island Volunteers for Hurricane Sandy Cleanup efforts

We were brought up to speed on the current environment and learned that many families were living in hazardous conditions since they have no where else to go. The neighborhood had many houses with piles of debris and portions of their former lives on the curb, waiting to be taken away for a future rebuild.

Getting Instructions for United By Blue Staten Island Cleanup

We split off into teams of 8-20 people to take on tasks like canvassing & checking in with neighbors, demolition, cleanup and assisting with various tasks for the homeowners. United By Blue had supplied all the tools we needed from masks, shovels, rakes & more.

United By Blue cleanup tool shed

My friend Catherine and I headed for a handful of local houses to follow-up and inquire about what help they needed. Each neighbor was incredibly positive, but we noticed there was a lot to do. Many of the houses had to gut their entire first floor and rebuild from the flood damage.

Next, we headed to a house to help clear yard debris from the storm. There was a corn field close to the house, and it looked as though someone had harvested the crop and stacked it on top of the man’s entire yard. We got to raking and stacking the debris in the street for a pickup.

United by Blue & Staten Island Strong Cleanup
Photo: Staten Island Strong Facebook

Even with endless natural debris in sight, we did stumble across some plastic pollution like this straw disguised as a twig:

united-by-blue-plastic-pollution-staten-island-cleanup

and this plastic bag stuck in the pile:

staten island cleanup plastic bag litter

We had gotten a dent in the yard when it started getting dark and our time was up before catching the bus to Philly.

united by blue hurricane sandy island cleanup

It was so great to meet some of the lovely ladies representing Staten Island Strong during the yard project, who even gave us some sweet t-shirts to spread the word of their group:

United-by-blue-staten-island-cleanup

I’m so glad I was a part of this volunteer crowd. Everyone was so positive, so excited and rolled with the punches to help out our New York neighbors. Many groups including Penn’s women soccer team (some of whom we worked with), Temple sustainability students, engineers without borders & others happily approached the day with a smile.

After my experience, I highly recommend joining a United by Blue cleanup, whether in Philadelphia or another city. They post their cleanups on their website and are always welcoming more volunteers.

Want to help out with Hurricane Sandy cleanup? Staten Island Strong posts about cleanups on their Facebook page. Surfrider Foundation’s South Jersey Chapter is hosting a cleanup in Gardner’s Basin in Atlantic City, New Jersey this Saturday, December 8 from noon – 3 PM. They host cleanups frequently as well, which are posted on their website and Facebook page.

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Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

1 thought on “United By Blue ‘Sandy’ Cleanup: The Full Volunteer Experience

  1. Pingback: Green Philly Blog Guest Post: UBB Wants You on the Water: Volunteer Alert | Leslie F Hudson

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