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Teens Help Hurricane Sandy Victims in Staten Island

Read this story in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Jewish Journal

South Floridians sometimes seem unconcerned about hurricanes and their potential for destruction. But 10 Jewish teens from the tri-county area traveled to Staten Island recently to help residents affected by Hurricane Sandy. The teenagers joined about 100 of their peers for the Jewish youth group BBYO's three-day "Stand Up and Rebuild" program.

"I just wanted to give back to the community," said Lindsay Sigal, 17, of Plantation. "These people lost everything. They were just people like me.

"We've been lucky," the South Plantation High School senior said. "That could have easily been us."

Some members of the South Florida contingent shoveled mulch into bags and helped to create a sustainable garden. And they strung together empty plastic water bottles that were used to build a greenhouse. Others planted vegetables and flowers. Some teens picked up trash and debris.

"I thought that doing a community service program with friends and peers would be a great way to go out and do service," said Xander Posner, 17, of West Boca Raton.

There are many reasons to do community service, the Olympic Heights High School senior said. He cited the influence of friends and other teenagers, Jewish values, "an understanding of your own privilege" and to feel better about yourself — "to know that you gave back."

"I felt like I wanted to make a difference and I could with the summit," said Emily Peter, 17, of Cooper City. Asked if she thinks her efforts made a difference, the Cooper City High School senior replied, "Absolutely."

Several teenagers said they were moved by Hurricane Sandy survivor Patricia Dresch's story. Dresch recounted how she lost her husband, her 13-year-old daughter and her home in the storm.

"It was so heartfelt, I gave her a hug," said Peter, adding Dresch was still homeless eight months after Hurricane Sandy.

"Her house was washed away," Joshua Sands, 16, of Aventura said. "She said she floated to an area and hit a porch deck on top of some house."

His response was "one of the most emotional feelings I've ever had," the junior at University School in Davie said.

Several teens said the summit was rewarding.

"I was inspired," Sigal said.

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