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Westchester Volunteer Agency Aims To Thwart 'Disaster Within A Disaster'

Americorps member Jeanne Temple mans a booth in September at the Rye Derby, a community event to educate volunteers. Volunteer New York! is touting its virtual reception center, which will help coordinate efforts during a disaster.
Americorps member Jeanne Temple mans a booth in September at the Rye Derby, a community event to educate volunteers. Volunteer New York! is touting its virtual reception center, which will help coordinate efforts during a disaster. Photo Credit: Provided

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. -- Folks living in New York may be bracing for Hurricane Joaquin even though forecasters haven’t -- as of Thursday afternoon -- been able to pin down its exact path as it aims at the East Coast.

Meanwhile, others are preparing behind the scenes in real life -- and in the virtual world -- to head off any potential for a “disaster within a disaster,” said Jeanette Gisbert, deputy executive director of Volunteer New York!, a nonprofit agency based in Tarrytown.

According to Gisbert, five nonprofits have registered to be part of the Virtual Volunteer Reception Center, a section of the agency’s website that only turns on when there is an actual crisis -- and when there is a need to mobilize spontaneous unaffiliated volunteers.

The five nonprofits that have registered and are prepared to be activated if and when a disaster occurs are: The American Red Cross, St. Christopher’s Inc., Therapeutic Equestrian Center, United Way of Westchester and Putnam’s 2-1-1 Helpline, and Friends of Westchester County Parks.

“Too often a ‘disaster within a disaster’ forms when volunteers want to respond immediately to a crisis, but are not given enough direction about how their time and resources can be most useful,” Gisbert said.

The Virtual Volunteer Reception Center is about helping “those that need help or resources to get exactly what they need as soon as they can get it,” she said.

Volunteer New York! also has been working with community organizations and nonprofits to assess their needs during and after a disaster. These needs will be posted online on the agency’s website, and volunteers will be directed to the site to sign up and serve.

“Westchester Community Foundation has bettered our ability to build more resilient communities and direct spontaneous volunteers where they are needed,” said Alisa Kesten, the agency’s executive director.

“Volunteer power is the first lifeline to get switched back on after a disaster, and it is most effective when there is a clear path to finding out what is needed and where,” Kesten added.

To find a volunteer opportunity, click here .

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