This is the last in a series of profiles of New York area residents whose worlds were upended by Superstorm Sandy and the people who responded to help them.
Day after day, Bob Tulipan led teams of relief volunteers to the areas hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy. One day the Rockaways; Staten Island the next. There was a mission dubbed "Operation Muck-Out" because scores of willing hands banded together to clean the residue and mold from homes that were damaged but still standing. As power outages stretched past a week, the assignment became delivering badly needed supplies. And when a powerful Nor'easter packing freezing winds and snow brought more damage and misery, Bob (above) and his squads of Good Samaritans picked up donated sleeping bags.
"We fanned out with hundreds of the bags," says Bob, 64, of Verona, N.J. "Especially for the elderly, the cold snap was a disaster on top of a disaster. I could relate. I've been through loss of power and heat and water myself more than once. I've been sharing that with the Sandy victims so they know I understand what they're going through."
Organizing big events is also nothing new for Bob. He worked in the entertainment industry for 25 years until he and his partner sold their business. The day after Sandy slammed the Northeast, Bob found himself taking a course for volunteers with WorldCares, a disaster-response-training nonprofit organized in the wake of 9/11. When the call went out for people to lead volunteers into the field, Bob stepped forward.
"I'm comfortable coordinating large numbers of people, stocking enough food and water, ensuring the health and safety of the group, and creating teams so the work gets done," Bob says. "Those are precisely the skills required to spearhead WorldCares relief efforts, so I raised my hand."
See also: AARP Foundation Relief Fund
Bob learned at his father's knee the value of reaching out to others. "My dad was an enlisted man in the U.S. Army stationed in Germany in 1945, and he played a significant role in the exodus of concentration camp survivors," Bob says. "He was humble about it, but he received numerous accolades. Many times during my childhood I heard people thank him. That's why I care so deeply about encouraging everyone to do something for others. And that's why I make every effort to do exactly that myself."
Reflecting on his involvement with WorldCares, Bob has a message for people who can spare some time. "When there's a need in your area, help in any way you can," he says. "You can make a donation, sure, but you won't believe the emotional reward you'll feel if you do anything from sweeping a sidewalk to calling on knowledge you've acquired over your lifetime."
See other parts of the Surviving Sandy series:
- 'I Thought My Mother Was Going to Die'
- 'One Saving Grace ... I Had My Car'
- '10 Years of Hard Work and Sacrifice ... Gone'
- 'We Thought We Were Safe This Time'
Photo: Anna Solo