With winter on the way and many properties still in need of repair after Hurricane Sandy, some local non-profit groups are having a hard time finding volunteers to keep up the work.
New York State is ranked 50th out of 50 states and Washington, D.C., making it the state with the least volunteers in the U.S. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, 20.6 percent of New Yorkers spent on average 24.7 hours volunteering in 2012.
Brian Steadman of Resurrection Brooklyn, a small non-profit that he founded to help with hurricane relief efforts, who is currently on projects in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood's low-lying mid-block courts, said that right now it's all hands on deck, and he's going to need some fresh volunteers to keep work going through the winter.
Resurrection Brooklyn has had well over 1,000 volunteers, but most of them have been from out of state, said Steadman. He was joined by four men from rural southern Indiana, who had been to the house earlier in the year with a youth group and saw the overwhelming need for volunteers.
“When I first got here, I thought to myself, well where do you start?” said Andy Hansen, who was working with his son Luke to prepare the bathroom ceiling for installation. “You look at these homes and think, tear the whole thing down and start over, but then you start with one small task and do one thing at a time, and you start to see a difference.”
At Steadman's current project site, houses in need of repair still line the block, with plywood privacy barriers a common sight.
“The majority of the teams are like these guys. They stay in our volunteer housing for five or six days,” Steadman said. “Usually local volunteers only come for one day.”
While he and his colleagues in construction are thankful for these day volunteers, they come with problems all their own.
“Day volunteer teams aren't as much bang for your buck,” Steadman said. “They're usually unskilled, they need to undergo safety training orientation, they need more supervising, and usually by the time they go to lunch and come back, you get a couple hours of good work out of them before they leave and never come back.”
Next door, the odor of floodwaters still wafts from a broken window that frames a scene that remains untouched since the day the waterline began to recede.
Steadman, who has worked on several restoration projects throughout the borough in the past two years, said that he wouldn't have been able to be as effective as he has if it wasn't for the support of large organizations such as NYC Service, Habitat for Humanity and United Way NYC.
“At this point in the game, there's not any one sole organization to come in and just take care of everything,” Steadman said.
According to Sheena Wright, president and CEO of United Way NYC, only 18 percent of New Yorkers are currently active in volunteering efforts. She believes that is because so many New Yorkers underestimate just how helpful they can really be.
“Volunteerism is one of the key levers that will help us solve the problems we have today,” Wright said. “If we aggregate all of the good will and the skill in our city, we can move that number from  to 25 percent.”
At a recent NYC Service Summit, the United Way launched a new initiative to increase volunteerism in the city, with running projects in all five boroughs including disaster relief, educational and senior programs, area beautification and crime prevention training.
As autumn looms, Steadman said he expects out-of-state volunteer numbers to drop, so he is hoping that there will be an influx in new local volunteers to fill in the gaps. Preferably, he said, they will be volunteers who stick around for more than one day of work.
“Habitat for Humanity has some local groups who commit to one particular day of the month and they come back every month,” he said. “That ability to put them to work shortens the training time needed, especially if they have been doing a similar task and they can help out other volunteers learn how to do it.”