An otherwise drab, ashen-color row of burned down cottages along the beech in Breezy Point, Brooklyn have been brightened by hand colored stars, decorated and donated by NYC schoolchildren.
More than 1,800 people are still living in hotels or other temporary housing from across the region. Breezy Point was one of the hardest hit areas of Hurricane Sandy, with massive flooding followed by a fire than burned more than 100 homes burned to the ground. The charitable organization Stars of HOPE has helped to cheeo brighten the destroyed community with hundreds of painted stars scattered throughout the oceanfront community. The organization was founded in 2007 after a tornado ravaged Greensburg, Kansas. Stars of HOPE works with schools and community leaders in a disaster-affected community to enlist children to paint inspirational words and messages on plywood stars and decorate them in bright colors.
The purpose of the stars is to bring color into a devastated area and to re-instill a sense of hope and community. Each town that receives stars then paints stars for the next town that experiences a disaster. Breezy Point received some of its stars from Minot, North Dakota and local New York school children.
“The color is such a bright contrast to the black and grey of charred homes and trees, and the ashen remains of what was once someone’s home,” said one Red Cross disaster worker. “They command your attention and deliver their messages of hope.”
The group selects a disaster-affected community for a three-day long Stars of HOPE project. They partner with a local school and community leaders such as City Council Members and/or first responders from the disaster-affected community to gain awareness and support for the project.
Stars of HOPE volunteers notify the selected community 6-8 weeks in advance of the project to provide time for event preparation and scheduling. Volunteers cut and sand hundreds of Stars for children in to paint inspirational words and messages on. In addition, 2”x2”x4’ wooden stakes are cut and painted to affix each Star. Stars of HOPE provides participating youth with paint, paint brushes, tarps and smocks on the Star painting day.
On the first day of the onsite project, Stars of HOPE volunteers meet with school officials, teachers, local volunteers, local first responders, and students. Stars of HOPE volunteers tell the participating youth the history of Stars of HOPE and what the volunteers hope to accomplish in the children’s community. Volunteers place the prepared wooden stakes throughout the devastated area.
On the second day, students paint their inspirational word and messages of Hope on their Stars, such as “love,” “hope” and “rebuild”.
On the third day, the Stars are affixed to the wooden stakes placed throughout the community by Stars of HOPE volunteers and participating local first responders.
Breezy Point is among the recipients of new grants from the Concert for Sandy Relief, the historic rock concert held on 12-12-12 at Madison Square Garden. Dozens of families in the community are still unable to return home after flooding and fires swept through in the hurricane; others continue to live without heat. Stars of Hope is one of several charitable organizations assisting residents. The Red Cross, St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee and other NYC Irish groups, and local Catholic churches have been working in the area since early November.