When Hurricane Sandy hit, Long Beach resident Johanna Sofield already had a reputation for giving back to her community.
As president and a co-founder of the Long Beach Christmas Angel, a nonprofit organization that assists families in the Long Beach School District that are dealing with financial crises, she has led efforts to help hundreds of families in town.
But after Sandy, the group, made up of volunteers, saw an obvious need in the community and extended its help to victims of the storm. For the past three years, the majority of its cases have been those impacted by Sandy.
“She was helping people before [the storm], and she did it during, and she’s done it after,” said State Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky, who worked with Sofield to host free legal clinics for Sandy victims. “Johanna has gotten boilers for people who don’t have heat, shelter for people who don’t have shelter, and rent money for people who would have been evicted. She brought people to me who needed legal assistance, and each of them told me what the Christmas Angel has done for them, whether it was a gift card, paying rent or getting a mattress because their belongings were ruined.”
Sofield said that a number of families remain displaced. Since the storm, the group has dispersed more than $700,000 to families in need, for everything from construction costs to mortgage payments, and it continues to help Sandy victims in situations where other aid sources have fallen short.
“We still have a lot of requests from people in need of rent or mortgage assistance,” she said.
The LBCA was one of the hundreds of grass-roots aid organizations in the tristate area through which the Robin Hood Foundation — the beneficiary of the hurricane relief concert at Madison Square Garden in December 2012 — distributed nearly $75 million in donations after the storm. The LBCA received four grants from the foundation, Sofield said, totaling $270,000. “After Sandy, when Robin Hood selected us as a grant recipient, our ability to assist local families expanded,” she said.
Giving back to the community