11/26/2012 03:01 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2013

Partnerships in the Aftermath of a Disaster

The images of the past month are all too familiar of a natural disaster's aftermath: homes destroyed, roadways and storefronts flooded, and families seeking refuge. Hurricane Sandy eviscerated parts of the Eastern seaboard and left communities and families to deal with the utter state of loss.

It is, perhaps, one of the truest tests of America's strength: when forces beyond our control destroy our homes, cut off the supply to our basic needs, and challenge our spirit.

As a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide every person with a safe and healthy home, Rebuilding Together is dedicated to be an active part of the recovery and rebuilding process, in order to strengthen our homes and nation's spirit.

In response to Hurricane Sandy, Rebuilding Together has set up a Disaster Recovery Fund, accepting donations in anticipation of massive and ongoing rebuilding needs throughout the Northeast. In addition, we are a member of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster working along with other national Response and Recovery organizations to represent and address the long-term needs faced by our homeowners and the communities.

Our focus at Rebuilding Together is on long term recovery through our local affiliates, helping families and communities rebuild after the storm has gone. And, our goal is to bring as many families back to safe and healthy homes.

Rebuilding Together and our affiliates have a long record of participating in local disaster recovery efforts throughout the country, most recently: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Nashville floods, and the tornadoes and hurricanes throughout the southern states.

It is reported that Hurricane Sandy is the second largest natural disaster in our nation's history. The "city that never sleeps" had extensive blackouts and business closings. An estimated 8 million lost power. Over $30 billion was lost in home and infrastructure damages. Twenty billion dollars was counted for economic losses.

Hurricane Sandy is another notch in the natural disaster belt that has confronted our world in recent years. Perhaps a most recent comparison is New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Sandy rocked the East Coast, whereas Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf some seven years ago.

Regardless of how different these areas are in terms of housing stock and communities, natural disasters make our most basic need, shelter, a limited resource. Our families, homeowners and renters suffer great loss, and sometimes, are never able to return to their homes. We also have learned that the rebuilding process is a marathon, not a sprint -- it will take an organized and determined effort to ensure a full recovery.

During times of disaster, our society shifts attention to those that are assigned to administer aid, recover and rebuild. Predictably, and understandably, we look to the leaders of our cities and nation. We wait for agencies whose purpose is to respond in times of emergency.

After Hurricane Katrina, our government officials, nonprofits and federal agencies learned that the best path to recovery is one in which we work together. Perhaps with Katrina as proof of what happens when we don't work together, President Obama, Governor Cuomo and Governor Christie made astounding efforts to work cohesively with each other, agencies and charities. I applaud them for their outstanding bi-partisan teamwork to bring relief to the devastated areas.

In addition to the work of the government agencies and leadership, the contributions by nonprofits and charities at the core of our economic and social health, as well as their relief and recovery efforts should be recognized: And they have the record to prove it.

It is reported that nonprofits were responsible for raising $6.5 billion for Hurricane Katrina victims. In 2010, only 10 days after the Haiti earthquake, $528 million was raised by U.S. nonprofits. Nine days after the Asian tsunamis, major U.S. relief groups raised $163 million.

It is without a doubt that significant parts of financial and social relief efforts are due to the incredible work of our nonprofits and charities. This is a framework that is quite unique to our country and one that should not be forgotten during times of disaster.

I applaud the nonprofit community for stepping up to synergize efforts in a time of darkness to recover our hope and build our future. A recent report from the New York City Governor's office highlights the efforts of New York nonprofits working with government agencies and leadership to maximize the efficiency and availability of relief, aid and recovery. Nonprofit organizations in this affected area are working with the government, FEMA and National Guard to distribute food and water. Nonprofits also provide people the opportunity to volunteer in relief efforts. It is reported that nearly have of the 400 nonprofits recently surveyed predict an increase in volunteers looking to help.

Perhaps Governor Cuomo said it best, "New York has one of the largest and most sophisticated non-profit sectors in the country and as we recover from Hurricane Sandy, this sector will be a critical partner."

As we go forward, I urge all leaders and government agencies to find opportunity to work with your local nonprofits. They are your allies and partners in working to make your communities better, your families healthier and your futures brighter. As unfortunate as disasters are, it allows us to strengthen the bond between our government, our businesses and our nonprofit sectors. It is time to realize that the work nonprofits perform is an essential asset to human recovery.

Rebuilding Together realizes the importance of partnership with organizations and agencies in order to maximize the efficiency and scope of our work, especially during times of emergency and disaster. We truly believe that the path to recovery and long-term health is achieved through the work we carry out in partnership with volunteers and sponsors.

In response to Hurricane Sandy, we have raised close to $1 million thanks to a large gift from the Sears Heroes at Home program and other corporate partners. We are grateful for their partnership and their vision.

The effect of a charitable contribution, an hour of your time to volunteer, and supporting your local nonprofit, is one of the most powerful and efficient ways we can pull ourselves out of despair and rebuild our strength and our future.

To learn more about our recovery efforts, you can visit: