The organization Where to Turn provides free services on Staten Island

January 11, 2009 5:15:09 AM PST
An organization on Staten Island is doing some incredible things. Just one of those things is to provide free snow shoveling to seniors. The Executive Director of "Where to Turn" joined us this morning with details. What is Where to Turn?
A 501 c 3 not for profit that was created after 9/11 and continues to help 9/11 families through its web based Crisis Relief Network (with over 800 support organizations linked). We saw how America came together after 9/11 and created programs that foster the sense of community the country felt at that time.

Tell us about a few of the programs.

Snow Shoveling for Seniors
We register Staten Island Seniors and recruit Staten Island Students. We find the closest senior in our database and match them up with one student. The student commits to shovel for that senior each time it snows free of charge and in return they get credit for 10 hours of community service and a letter of recognition from the Borough President. Each of the last 3 winters we have shoveled for over 600 seniors.

Graffiti Removal
Working with the Criminal Court youthful offenders are assigned to us to complete their court ordered community service. Through pilot program in 2008 these kids performed over 1,000 hours of community service removing graffiti and we cleaned up 325 tagged locations. Working with the Mayor's CAU we assisted in cleaning up 90% of graffiti sites reported (800 out of 889 locations reported)

Flags Across Staten Island
We have replaced repeatedly tagged locations with American Flag Murals by Scott LoBaido He painted 25 murals in 2008 and we will complete another 25 prior to Memorial Day 2009. None of the murals have been tagged.

Veteran Grave Marker Replacement
There are over 350 grave markers for veterans that have been vandalized or lost. Working with the Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries student volunteers and researching these veterans, some back to the Civil War and we will be requesting replacement grave markers from the Veteran's Administration and installing them.

What is the Where to Turn Community Circle?
Bringing together people from all ages, races, religions and walks of life we hope to offer a unique forum for people to voice their concerns and work on solutions. Unlike other groups this one will be open to all. Civic and Community reps, NYPD, Elected Officials, Students, Teachers seniors Through regularly scheduled meetings we will focus on the needs of Staten Island but we hope to develop a template that other will be able to follow.

Last year when you were here, you discussed the Re-Gifting for a Good Cause Program. How is that working out?
In 2008 we collected over 2,500 items that people received as gifts that they really didn't want. We redistributed these gifts to those in need clothes and toys to needy families. Over 1,200 toys were distributed over the holiday season. CD's and DVD's were sent to soldiers in military hospitals. All the other stuff will be sold at a flea market in the spring to fund our programs.

What are your goals for 2009?
We hope to address issues that may fall through the cracks with the current budget crisis. We hope to double the amount of students in our programs (goal is 5,000). We have also proposed programs at both the state and national level to have retirees become more active in volunteering for local not for profits. In return, we will set up a fund to pay part of their medical benefits. We have also proposed that students that have documented community service in grammar and high school should get additional aid for City and State colleges. We are currently working with Senator Lanza and Assemblyman Cusick at the local level and are trying to get a meeting with Gov Patterson and maybe even President Obama to discuss these programs.

Finally, what is the Hearts and Hands Memorial?
It is a planned $6.5 Million Memorial that will honor all those who have died and become ill as a result of the attacks on 9/11 as well as all those who joined together to help after the attacks. We will be re-furbishing an old building on Staten Island that will house the 16.000 square foot United in Memory Victims Memorial Quilt.

The Memorial will also contain a corridor of memories with 8x10 photos of all the victims by affiliation in alphabetical order. Finally, it will include a 21,000 square foot memorial garden where anyone can remember those lost in a peaceful and serene setting. Visitors will also be able to record memories in our archive and we will develop educational and outreach programs with other 9/11 groups. We already have a $467,000 start up grant from Senators Clinton and Schumer and $500,000 committed from Senator Lanza.

For more information on these programs, visit www.where-to-turn.org.

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