Following the tragedy of September 11, the New York Says Thank You Foundation was created by Jeff Parness to help rebuild communities around the country affected by disasters.
When Hurricane Sandy hit, Parness and his non-profit went to work in devastated areas and helped first responders who lost their homes.
The foundation was originally set up to provide the rest of the country with aid as payback for the aid that New York received after 9/11, and to show the rest of the country how much the support was appreciated.
“New York Says Thank you was started in 2003 by my five-year-old son in order to help kids in California,” he said. “New Yorkers will never forget what people did for us in our time of need.”
Parness said the organization has an emphasis on recognizing first responders and helping them when they are in need. When Parness learned that the destruction in the Rockaways affected the homes of many first responders, New York Says Thank You jumped into action.
“There was somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 active New York City first responders who were directly impacted or displaced by the storm,” he said.
Parness explained that it was most likely not publicized in great detail because these are the people who usually don’t “raise their hands and ask for help.”
“We thought it was important to take care of them, just like they take care of us,” he said.
Following the storm, the foundation made a commitment to rebuild 200 homes for underinsured and active New York City first responders impacted by Sandy.
One of those that receive help from the foundation was Joe Lane, a former New York City police officer who serves in the 104th Precinct. His home in Broad Channel, where he lives with his wife and two baby daughters, was devastated by the storm. The storm also washed away a 100-foot walkway that led to his house.
According to Parness, Lane was underinsured by $60,000, and was denied aid from FEMA. He was forced to live in a small apartment in Queens with five relatives during which time the babies didn’t have room to crawl.
“We came in with about 60 volunteers over the course of about four weeks and totally reenergized his walkway and his house,” Parness said. “The whole premises is that he can focus on being the best homicide detective there is.”
An online registration form has been posted on the foundation's website to sign up for volunteer aid.
“We would be honored to help them for everything they do for us,” Parness said.