In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, New York lawyers David Roth and Kenneth Hoefer organized a grass roots campaign to help residents of the devastated areas of Belle Harbor in the Rockaways and the city of Long Beach, New York. The trial lawyers led the charge to purchase and provide supplies for people who were most in need and could not wait for government intervention.
More than 100 members of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association gave time and money to help. They purchased batteries, headlamps, water, tools, wet-vacs, garbage cans, warm clothing, work gloves, dehumidifiers, cleaning supplies – like bleach pumps to disinfect and kill mold – and more. Plus toys and goodies for the kids. At one Costco they wiped out an entire supply of brooms. Then, they drove their caravan into the flooded cities and went door-to-door, with their children as helpers, to give away supplies and ask residents what else they could get for them. Even when the residents didn’t need anything the lawyers brought hundreds of feet of heroes and would have lunch with the residents adding to the feeling of camaraderie.
When residents returned to evacuated homes some had pieces of torn concrete foundation blocking entryways or lying on their lawns, Brooklyn lawyer John Lonuzzi hooked up a winch to his truck and dragged many of the pieces away. When the lawyers heard that pets were starving, they made a dog food run. There was a severe gas shortage, and when people needed gas for their cars so they could get to work, or gas for their generators so they could have light and stay warm, the lawyers showed up with truckloads of gas cans and distributed gas to cars and generators.
The impact of the volunteer effort was felt by residents and helpers, alike. The lawyers’ children who handed out supplies and candy learned firsthand the power of helping neighbors in need. They learned how rewarding it is to help people, and to do it in a way that preserves victims’ dignity.
Roth and Hoefer decided that the lawyers would go door to door and meet the residents at their homes, instead of having them visit distribution centers to pick through donated goods. Additionally many of the items that lawyers brought, such as gasoline, wet-vacs, headlamps, and heavy duty work gloves, were simply not available anywhere else.
At the start of the neighborhood effort, a woman asked Roth if he and fellow lawyer Justin Blitz were from the church because, in her opinion, they were angels.
Roth responded, “Close, we are trial lawyers, doing what we always do — helping people.”
The Sandy survivors all asked what could they do in return, and the response was the same, “When the subject comes up about trial lawyers you can say, ‘I met some trial lawyers – they ain’t so bad.’”
Residents were quick to reply, “We will do way more than that!” and gushed their thanks to the lawyers and their families.