Article in Metro New York

It has been two months since Sandy ravaged the East Coast. For many New Yorkers, the recovery is far from finished.

"People think the crisis is over because the electricity is back on," relief volunteer Bruce Rector said. "There's still so much to be done."

When the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross had exited parts of disaster-stricken Staten Island, two former city workers stepped up to fill the void. Retired NYPD sergeant Marc Cosentino and retired FDNY firefighter John McCole spearheaded a relief effort that has reached thousands. Along with their church's disaster recovery team, the Scientology Volunteer Ministers, these local heroes have been working tirelessly in Staten Island for months.

"Being a native Staten Islander, I couldn't stand by and let all these poor people go without," said McCole, who's been going door to door personally delivering resources to those in need - everything from food, to clothing, to diapers.

The team's home base is popular Staten Island restaurant Goodfellas, owned by Cosentino's brother, and has played an integral part of the recovery effort. Since October, Goodfellas has delivered thousands of meals to Sandy victims and has opened its doors to those too devastated to afford food.

McCole and Cosentino are pushing even harder for the holidays and will be playing Santa for kids in the heavily hit areas.

"You can't stop us from helping," said Cosentino. "This is what we're supposed to do."

Gary Bagley, executive director of New York Cares, encourages New Yorkers to check out the organization's most popular holiday volunteer opportunities.

Throw a holiday party for those in need: Bring the holiday spirit to homeless shelters and senior centers by attending an on-location New York Cares holiday party.

Winter Wishes program: Brighten the season by answering gift requests written by children, families and older adults in need.

Holiday Coat Drive: Help New York Cares reach its donation goal of 200,000 coats. Volunteers are needed to sort and organize donations.
 If interested in volunteering, visit

Alex Sczesnak, a high school math teacher from Harlem, hopes to spread the true message of the holidays.

This season marks a first for New Yorker Alex Sczesnak, who's long wanted to get involved with holiday volunteering. This Christmas Eve he'll be working with hospice to spend time with AIDS patients.

"I love the holidays, but it's just so consumer-driven," said Sczesnak, who asked his family not to buy him presents this year. "It should be about spending time with people you love, and giving love to others."

International human rights organization allows New Yorkers to make global difference.

New Yorker Bonnie Haskell recently made a direct difference in the lives of expectant mothers in Afghanistan.

And she didn't have to leave New York to do it.

Haskell is a volunteer with MADRE, an international organization that partners with community-based women's groups throughout the world to advance women's rights.

"Through MADRE, I was put in charge of finding donations for the Afghan Midwives Association," said Haskell, who organized items like vitamins, medical supplies and even breast pumps to send directly to Afghan women. "MADRE is great because it allows you to have an international impact from the city.

For more information about MADRE's New York-based projects, visit