Harold Steinberg, chair of B’nai B’rith International’s Disaster Relief Committee, and his wife, Margie Steinberg, volunteered with clean up efforts in Baton Rouge this week. They also presented two grants to assist with clean up and rebuilding. The Steinbergs, on behalf of B’nai B’rith, presented a $15,000 check to aid group NECHAMA to assist with its ongoing clean-up efforts to help rebuild not only Baton Rouge, but other areas impacted by a natural disaster. Our donation, along with funds from other donors, will help NECHAMA purchase a supply truck that will be used to bring supplies, tools and other equipment.
The Steinbergs also presented a check for $4,400 to the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana (A+PEL) to purchase new school supplies to replace supplies destroyed in the floods.
This is their account of their volunteer work and B’nai B’rith’s Disaster Relief Efforts:
When we saw the pictures from Baton Rouge in the wake of the August flooding, we wanted to see how helpful B’nai B’rith overall, and we personally, could be. We worked with the B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief committee to open a fund to raise assistance for the region. And not long after, we put on our B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Volunteer T-Shirts and took off from our home in Memphis for Baton Rouge.
Mucking out a house—tearing it down to the studs—is strenuous work, at least for 70-year-old people. We were assigned to muck out a house that was untouched for six weeks. That involves taking out all the siding, the fixtures, the floor, cutting the house down to the studs. Everything goes out to the street.
The storm was Aug. 15. That is the date marked on the houses we worked on. They marked it with a big “X,” which notes that the house is not inhabited, and you can see the date that the house was (temporarily) abandoned by its owners. The houses we work in have no air conditioning: they are hot, wet and smelly.
NECHAMA brings everything volunteers need in terms of personal protective equipment. Hand tools, hard hats, gloves, goggles, dust masks—everything.
This is work that is necessary to help people who don’t have the resources to help themselves. It is very heartwarming and rewarding. You can work at your own pace and your own abilities.
B’nai B’rith and our Center for Community Action took part here because of the relationship we have built with NECHAMA and all the good work that organization does. We wanted to work with them again and that’s why we went to Baton Rouge.
NECHAMA and its volunteers have completed mucking out 53 houses since they arrived in Baton Rouge. They are committed to be there until the end of October. Their hard work is about gutting the houses down to the studs so they can be rebuilt.
We are so proud of the work of our Disaster Relief Committee, which found such a worthwhile clean-up project in partnership with NECHAMA.
We are also pleased that in addition to our manual labor, we were able to present a donation of $15,000 directly to Mark McGilvery, field operations coordinator, and his dedicated team.
B’nai B’rith, which is 173-years-old next month, started doing disaster relief in 1865, in the wake of devastating floods in Baltimore, Md. Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, is something we are both deeply interested in.
B’nai B’rith and NECHAMA are partners together to help people. A late international leader of B’nai B’rith from Arkansas, Louis Barg, would say “B’nai B’rith meets unmet needs.” And we have seen that time after time when our Center for Community Action reaches out to a community devastated by a disaster and helps with rebuilding efforts.
NECHAMA gets the work done, with great care and attention to a shoestring budget.
Working with NECHAMA is truly an interfaith experience. We met people from all religions, all backgrounds, who just want to help.
Our next stop after our work with NECHAMA was Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana (A+PEL).
We met with Keith Courville, Ph.D., the executive director, and presented him with a check from B’nai B’rith for $4,400 to help teachers restock school supplies lost in the floods. We also donated books from our B’nai B’rith Diverse Minds Writing Challenge, a contest where high schoolers write books to teach elementary aged children about tolerance and diversity.
We discovered A+PEL through a Facebook post from someone in New Orleans about the great need for school supplies. We read up on them and thought this would be a good fit for B’nai B’rith. Our Disaster Relief Committee approved a $4,400 grant to support these efforts. So many teachers buy school supplies out of pocket for their students. The flood washed the supplies away. When we contacted Dr. Courville, he confirmed the great need for school supplies in the area.
In fact, when we were mucking out houses, we even saw on the floor a drenched, new package of writing paper, and a school bag with brand new pencils, still in their box. We are also providing a large number of Diverse Minds books to A+PEL to distribute to the teachers.
This is another wonderful aspect of our disaster relief efforts—the ongoing rebuilding and commitment to a community that B’nai B’rith brings.