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Islanders head east to help rebuild neighborhoods ravaged by Sandy

An Island contractor moved by the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is organizing a group of Islanders to travel to the East Coast and help rebuild some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods. He hopes to find several more to join the effort and to raise at least $4,000 on Vashon to help pay for the trip.

Doug Sudduth, a semi-retired general contractor, said he set up the trip after talking with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials who said areas that were hardest hit by the storm are in dire need of skilled volunteers — people who can clear debris, shore up damaged homes, pump water from basements and repair utilities. Contractors, construction workers, carpenters and electricians are largely tied up, Sudduth said.

“They have some gear and fuel, and clothes are looking good, but they don’t know anyone who can close up a roof,” Sudduth said.

So far he’s recruited a group of five men — some family members and a few employees — to make the trip. Some friends in New Hampshire will join them, he said, and he’s actively looking for more Islanders who can take a week or two to join them. They plan to leave Sunday.

Sudduth said a number of Islanders have expressed interest in volunteering, but they’re hesitant about the costs involved, as well as taking time off work.

“The worry for everyone is to be able to afford going back and forth without costing them money,” he said.

To that end, Sudduth, a Vashon native, hopes to raise $4,000 in donations to cover the fuel for one truck to drive across the country and back, as well as their expenses on the East Coast. He has also asked for the airline JetBlue to donate as many as 20 tickets to Islanders, a request he hasn’t heard back on but is feeling good about.

“That might get me more people,” he said.

Organizing the trip hasn’t been easy, Sudduth said. FEMA workers are so inundated that at first he had trouble even reaching the right person. Finally, he said, he was connected with a FEMA coordinator on the ground on the hard-hit Staten Island. The woman encouraged him to come.

“She’s so busy, she said, but we’ll welcome any help you can give,” Sudduth said.

Sudduth is now in New York — he flew there Sunday to find lodging for the group and coordinate with FEMA to determine where the men should focus their efforts. He’ll report back to the others, who will bring the necessary tools and equipment when they come later this week.

“There are too many unknowns at this point,” Sudduth said.

Once in New York, he anticipates they’ll start on the hard-hit Staten Island, perhaps going door to door offering up their help. They may even build some temporary structures for those who lost entire homes.

“They’re in a pretty serious state, as far as getting someone to help them, because everyone is tied up,” he said.

If they have the time and manpower, they may do some work at the New Jersey coastline as well.

Sudduth said he wanted to organize a similar volunteer trip after Hurricane Katrina, but never got around to planning it. He said that during storms on Vashon, he’s been struck by how Islanders pull together to help one another, and he wants to extend some of that same help to those in need across the county.

“This time I wanted to be more prepared,” he said. “I thought about it more carefully and put it together.”

 

Donations for the trip can be deposited into the Vashon Builders Relief Fund account at Chase bank. Or contact Rebecca Parks at 491-6157. Those interested in joining the trip should contact Doug Sudduth at 450-4707.

 

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