Long Island’s South Shore is still inhabitable after Hurricane Sandy because, as cause leader Lauren Forman described to us in a phone call last week, “Fire Island did its job.” Fire Island, a 32-mile stretch of land, is a natural storm barrier that protects Long Island’s South Shore from being swept away into the ocean. The island is also a place with 200 permanent homes sprinkled throughout a six-mile portion of the island, and it’s a desired summer destination site for many New Yorkers. The island’s homes were walloped by Sandy’s storm surges after protective sand dunes were destroyed. Wanting to help, Lauren launched a fundraiser on Causes.com to help the local volunteer fire department and she is now working on a petition to ask Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York for the state’s help in rebuilding the sand dunes.
Lauren is a second-generation Ocean Beach, Fire Island resident with lots of love for the community. The aftermath left much of Fire Island destroyed and Lauren knew she wanted to do something. “My parents own a home [on Fire Island] and we spend summers there. I wanted to do something but I didn’t know what. We were prohibited to get out there, but I wanted to raise money.” Lauren, a social media consultant, wanted to harness the power of collective action online, so she reached out to the Ocean Beach fire department chief and found out that they were a 501c3 nonprofit. She immediately created a fundraiser on Causes. “They needed to buy new boots, new chainsaws, new safety packs, new people to train. They had a budget and were blowing through it.” In less than a week, Lauren raised more than $11,000 on her donation page, which enthused the fire department volunteers and chief. “[Assistant Fire Chief Ian Levine] and I were looking at the numbers go up and were amazed.”
This is Lauren’s first time fundraising for a nonprofit and she told us that the willingness of others within the Fire Island community to help really paved the way for this fundraiser to succeed. One of the people she’s especially thankful for is Brendan Smith, a high school friend who has maintained the website FireIsland.com since 1996. His interest in Fire Island stretches back four generations: his grandmother lived on the island and his mother grew up there, too. With a Facebook fan page of more than 25,000 people, Brendan knew he was in the right place to help. “I have a personal interest in protecting the image of the island and its natural resources. I first started by promoting [Lauren's] donation page, which had only $2,000 raised when I joined the effort. In just a day or two it had surpassed $6,000.”
Petitioning the Governor of New York For Help
As of today, Lauren’s fundraiser has raised more than $13,000. She hopes to raise $15,000 total. Lauren knows her fundraiser won’t rebuild all of Fire Island, which is why she hopes the state of New York can help.
A week after launching her fundraiser, Lauren published a petition asking Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York to take a long, hard look at Fire Island’s destruction. She told us, “Now that the water has receded, it’s a big cleanup effort and we need help.” A vital rebuilding effort needs to happen for the sand dunes that were destroyed during the storm. Without them, the future of Fire Island’s permanent homes and Long Island’s south shore hangs in the balance.
Lauren’s friend Brendan also wants people to know the Fire Island community will always remember the support. “I would just want [people] to know that this is a home to many people and a unique, truly one-of-a-kind place. We are strong people who know the risks of living in a barrier beach, but believe we deserve for it to be protected. We will rebuild, and we are grateful for the support.”
Find out more about Lauren’s fundraiser and petition by visiting her Fire Island Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts cause.