On June 5, 2013, the Long Island chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) awarded individuals and groups whose effective communications provided significant assistance during and after Hurricane Sandy. The awards were held at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. In addition, some of the honorees’ Hurricane Sandy initiatives are still ongoing.
During and after natural disasters, people do not often think of journalists and public relations professionals as heroes. Yet, their hard work at odd hours and under trying conditions, helps to bring communities together. When people receive important updates, or when TV or newspaper reports move people to action, lives are saved, and quality of life improves drastically. Effective communications allow for more mobilized and organized communities.
Community Service Award: Lindenhurst Camp Bulldog Superstorm Sandy Relief
Camp Bulldog was a six-month camp for Lindenhurst residents. Displaced residents lived there for a time, and when residents could return to their homes, they visited the camp for a hot meal, information, advice, and encouragement. This year’s Community Service Award honored several participants: Robin DiGiocomo, Morris Hartman, Debbie & Mike Pastore, Amy Castiglia, Shannon Ford, Andrea & Caitlin Curran, Bruce Casagrande, and Corinna Reyes. Accepting the award was Andrea Curran, a retired teacher and a leader in the Camp Bulldog effort, bringing much-needed media updates and information back to the tent. “None of us could have imagined Camp Bulldog lasting six months…. We made a wonderful commitment because we couldn’t turn our backs to these people…[and] the look of shock and fear and despair,” Curran said.
Curran praised the mobile services that the community made available to Camp Bulldog, including a Long Island Jewish Health System van providing free weekly medical care, a legal van, and a Long Island Cares storefront in Lindenhurst. People at the camp also helped each other, bringing in homemade food and offering advice to others when they could. “Just seeing them come that full circle was our reward, and it made us feel that much better for having stayed six months,” Curran said.
Student Achievement: Monica Zenyuh, Doctoral Student at Hofstra University
Monica Zenyuh is an adjunct professor at Hofstra University and a middle school teacher for the Harborfields Central School District, winning her award for establishing “Adopt-A-School” to procure supplies to schools impacted by Superstorm Sandy. Her work and her connections as a teacher sparked the idea and made the project possible. “I was like match.com for schools,” Zenyuh said.
For Zenyuh, the idea for the Adopt-A-School program started with emails to her friends, many of whom are educators. “All of a sudden, I got all these emails back. ‘What can we do?’ ‘How can we help?’ …’My class wants to help.'” Zenyuh explained. Students wrote letters and cards for the schools impacted by Hurricane Sandy, connecting with them on a personal level, Zenyuh said.
To illustrate the importance of putting a name and a face behind people impacted by Hurricane Sandy, Zenyuh shared a personal story. When she and her children helped unload games for a Lindenhurst school, one of the mothers invited them to her house. The mother was living with her family out of a trailer in her front yard. “She took [my children] into the house and showed them how the canals had built up into her home, and then they finally got it,” Zenyuh said. “Once kids saw things and heard personal stories,…it brought it to a new level of understanding,” she added.
Achievement in Crisis Communications: Edward P. Mangano, Nassau County Executive
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano advocated in Congress to bring funds to Long Island areas hardest hit by Sandy. He and his staff were responsible for ensuring the availability of shelters, meal distribution sites, laundry facilities, hot showers, and insurance and FEMA assistance centers. He also joined with chaplains of Nassau’s fire and police departments to create a hurricane recovery fund and opened a Nassau County Business Recovery Center.
“A lot of that credit that you choose to honor me with today really goes to my staff, the county workforce, and all those in communications that work very hard,” Mangano said. He also emphasized the importance of inter-agency communication and getting information out to county residents.
On June 27, Mangano announced that a joint investigation of unlicensed contractors targeting Hurricane Sandy victims resulted in 61 arrests, $150,000 in fines, and over 50 seized vehicles.
Achievement in Communications: Gordon Tepper, Director of Communications, City of Long Beach
Gordon Tepper was responsible for continual outreach to residents and the media before and after Sandy. This included a trip to City Hall in the middle of the night following the storm. Outreach methods included the use of technology, such as robocalls, email blasts, and text alerts. When the power went out, the City of Long Beach used paper fliers, and the police used bullhorns to alert people. Tepper even wrote a sign that read, “Welcome to Long Beach. You can flush toilets.”
Boardwalk construction continues, according to the City of Long Beach website, and so far, installations have included hurricane straps, stringers, and fasteners.
Achievement in Digital Communications: Henry Powderly, Patch.com’s Long Island operation
As a community news service, Patch.com was available with timely updates regarding Hurricane Sandy “from the moment we knew the storm was coming,” said Henry Powderly, Patch.com Regional Editor covering Suffolk County and the North and South Forks of Long Island., and an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University. “We had dozens of editors working 24/7 in the dark in their cars,” he added.
Powderly discussed the importance of disseminating timely news and information, saying: “In times of disaster, information…solves problems. We were proud to play our role as on-the-ground journalists.”
Communicator of the Year: Sheila Ziegler, Safeguard/Bradley Marketing Group
The Communicator of the Year award was given for effective communications overall, rather than just for storm-related communications. As chair of the Awards Committee since 2010, Ziegler managed recruitment of judges, disseminating nominations to them, and running the Awards Luncheon. “Sheila Ziegler can easily be called the “unsung hero” of IABC-LI,” the bio for the awards ceremony stated.
Like Curran, Ziegler was also a teacher. Now, however, she helps businesses to design and choose their brochures, trade show materials, incentives, awards, company apparel, corporate gifts, and promotional products. A later blog post will focus on Friendship Force, an exchange program that Ziegler runs with her husband.
For more information, please visit IABC Long Island’s Awards Page.