COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Michael Taylor’s day job is as a civil servant, but his service doesn’t end after business hours. Taylor is the founder of We Care New York, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit dedicated to “helping people with relief, rebuilding and recovery in times of crisis or natural disaster.”
Since launching in March, 2013, the all-volunteer organization has partnered with community leaders to bring donations of food and other essentials to neighborhoods in need – such as Rockaways, the Bronx, Coney Island, Gerritsen Beach and Canarsie – and directed New Yorkers to resources and organizations that can help them address recovery problems.
For example, the group partnered with the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program and will help recruit volunteers to sort and pack toys for all the organizations in the area that need it.
Taylor also volunteered for 17 years with Gerritsen Beach Cares. After Superstorm Sandy, he led the set-up of long term recovery, relief, rebuilding operations for four months.
“I just noticed how hard it was for people to connect with the resources and understand the programs and deal with being overwhelmed from this crisis,” he explained. “We want to make sure the issues get the attention they need.
“After the storm, everyone just wanted it to be over, but the reality is that it’s going to be more than a decade for most of the people to get to recover, either by rebuilding or by paying back the loans they had to take,” Taylor said. “It’s sad how complicated it is and how much money was put in but how little gets down to the victims. I try to make a little bit of difference.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “Dealing with lack of support for the poor and the mentally disabled – who have virtually no support from friends or family – is a challenge,” admitted Taylor.
Government programs are also a challenge, he said. “It seems like the programs and systems are overly complicated and don’t have a component to deal with people who are shut-ins or might have a mental disability or don’t have family.”
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: Taylor describes the four months spent helping Sandy-hit residents as among his most proud. “At GBC, we did amazing things to help the parkland, local waterways and cleanups, and in those four months helping everybody who came for help, we brought in millions of dollars’ worth of heaters, sleeping bags, cots and food for 200 people a day who didn’t have stoves and refrigerators.”
PERSONAL: Taylor was born in Sheepshead Bay and raised in Gerritsen Beach. He lives in the area with his wife and two children.
“I learned very young growing up in Gerritsen to volunteer for lots of different things,” he said, adding that his stepdaughter has autism and “if something happened to me or my wife, my daughter, 17, would be a shut-in,” so he takes special interest in supporting individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities, as well.
MOTIVATION: “My volunteerism is my hobby. I’m not a person who hangs out in bars and watches sports,” stated Taylor.