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October 2013 | Grants Results

Hackathon Helps Rockaways Rebound

Jessica Klein, Jaime Jordan, and Katie Honan created

Days after Superstorm Sandy hit, Jessica Klein of Belle Harbor, Queens, plunged into helping her badly damaged neighborhood.

A programmer at Mozilla, Klein realized her tech skills could be put to work connecting volunteers with those who needed them. With two friends, she created the website and nonprofit Rockaway Help.

The site was used to track down an older resident who had been evacuated from a Rockaway nursing facility. “We were able to get her home by connecting her with a Spanish-speaker who could pick her up an hour away,” says Klein. The site helped Team Rubicon, a group of military veterans, mobilize volunteers to clear debris and rebuild homes.

Communities in the Rockaways are on the front lines of Atlantic storms, geographically isolated from the rest of the City, and home to pockets of entrenched poverty. As part of The Trust’s emphasis on resiliency, a $10,000 grant to Rockaway Help was used to hold a hackathon to train residents and community groups to create and use digital maps, applications, and forums to track recovery from Sandy and prepare for future storms. They’ve learned how to use Twitter to get local news; communicate with FEMA online; and to scan and save family photos so they’re protected from floodwaters.

The White House honored Klein for her work running the hackathon and named her a “Champion of Change.”

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