Streams

Watch | Digging Out in the Rockaways With the Help of Military Veterans

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kathy Maggio, 56, lives a half block away from the beach on 126th Street, in a one-story brick house in Rockaway, Queens.

Hurricane Sandy severely damaged her home: Flood waters gushed in, leaving leaking ceilings, a ruined skylight, water-logged walls and a basement full of destroyed furniture, rugs, and boxes of photos and keepsakes.

Maggio said she saw volunteers in her hard-hit neighborhood shortly after the storm hit.

"So I saw these guys walking around, removing debris at a neighbor's house," Maggio said.

Two days later, she said, half a dozen volunteers were at her door. They were members of Team Rubicon, a nonprofit organization leading house-to-house relief work in the Rockaways.

Team Rubicon is a two-year-old group comprised of military veterans whose mission is to get boots on the ground faster than traditional aid organizations.

Since Sandy, the organization has been growing by the day, with veterans joining online from across the country.

Hundreds of veteran volunteers sponsored by Team Rubicon, as well as walk-in volunteers, are now working on relief efforts in the Rockaways and New Jersey.

The mission has completed work at more than 150 houses in the Rockaways. With hundreds of homeowners in the area still in need, the organization has been flying in veterans from all over the U.S.

"We've been here even before the storm came in," said Ford Sypher, of Team Rubicon's emergency response team.

Sypher was flown from Missouri days before Sandy hit to help establish a disaster relief base for the Rockaway Beach area. The organization set up a command center at 124th Street, where residents can file requests for assistance, and with the donation of a computer-mapping program, by Palo Alto-based software company Palantir, Team Rubicon has been able to track the work orders and send teams out quickly.

Danna Cravens, an Army veteran who served in Iraq in 2009, was flown in from Arizona.

"I just got done with a demolition of a house on 122nd Street," Cravens said.

The family—mom, dad and two little girls—watched on as the team took everything down and got it all out on the street.

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