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Northeast Times | January 28, 2023

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SBA Honors Outstanding Disaster Recovery Efforts

SBA Honors Outstanding Disaster Recovery Efforts

A Pacific Northwest mayor who managed recovery efforts in the aftermath of a devastating mudslide, a Staten Island college student who used social media to ignite volunteerism in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and a New York marina owner who reopened his business less than six months after Hurricane Sandy nearly destroyed his property will be presented at the White House with a 2015 Phoenix Award on May 8 during a U.S. Small Business Administration National Small Business Week event.

Since 1998, the SBA has presented Phoenix Awards to business owners, public officials and volunteers who displayed selflessness, ingenuity and tenacity in the aftermath of a disaster, while contributing to the rebuilding of their communities.

Dan Rankin, Mayor of the Town of Darrington,Washington will receive the 2015 Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Public Official.

On March 22, 2014, a major landslide occurred in Oso, Washington, killing 43, engulfing 49 homes in mud and debris, blocking the main state highway and damming the Stillaguamish River.

In the aftermath of the devastation, Mayor Dan Rankin’s first job was to comfort the families who had lost loved ones. He quickly coordinated the search and rescue mission, while working to ensure that residents and businesses had access to emergency resources. Rankin was a visible liaison to federal and state officials, going above and beyond to keep the residents informed.

He fought to get telephone and internet connections restored quickly, and did everything he could to make sure that State Route 530—the main transportation link to Darrington—reopened as quickly as possible.

Christian Spears of Staten Island, New York will receive the 2015 Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Volunteer.

It all started with a Facebook post a few days after Hurricane Sandy devastated much of New York’s coastal communities on October 29, 2012.

“Attention all Staten Islanders!!! I have started a group called SIFT: Staten Island Friends Together. This organization was founded to help victims sift through their rubble to help find precious memories.”

Soon, the Facebook page created by then 20-year-old Christian Spears started getting hundreds of likes and responses from local volunteers ready to support the recovery efforts.

He enlisted the SIFT volunteers to help single mothers and the elderly clean up their flood-damaged homes. Within a month more than 600 volunteers had joined the SIFT team.

SIFT’s Facebook page connected businesses and local residents with the resources they needed to expedite their recovery. Spears and his team also used old-fashioned legwork, going door-to-door handing out food, water, blankets and other necessities. Ultimately SIFT helped more than 570 families. Spears managed to keep his part-time job and continue his college studies while managing SIFT’s Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

Conrad Kreuter, President of Moriches Inlet Marine, Inc., will receive the 2015 Phoenix Award for Outstanding Small Business Disaster Recovery.

Conrad Kreuter’s retail shop and marina in East Moriches, New York typically stores about 500 boats each year. With a background in electrical engineering, his mind envisioned—with dread—the extent of the damages to the marina after Hurricane Sandy devastated the area on October 29, 2012.

What he found was shocking. Windows were broken and the destroyed walls exposed insulation and wiring. Sand and seaweed were attached to everything. Wet papers, twisted supply racks and light fixtures littered the floor, and the smell of dead fish was overwhelming.

Moving quickly, Kreuter created a chart to plot out the first tasks needed to mount a successful recovery. The damage was estimated at $825,000.

Kreuter kept his suppliers informed about his recovery efforts, and they in turn became a valuable resource. One vendor sent their salespeople to help Kreuter and his team remove debris and restock shelves. An SBA disaster loan allowed Kreuter to keep his staff employed, rebuild the business within six months of the storm, and contribute to the restoration of the local economy, which depends on the vibrant marina industry.