CHARLESTON — A Charleston-based nonprofit that seeks to connect veterans with environmental cleanup jobs is organizing volunteers to clean debris from Long Island beaches hammered by Superstorm Sandy.
Rudy Socha, CEO of the group Wounded Nature-Working Veterans plans to have several hundred volunteers working to clean beaches on Jamaica Bay next week. The beaches are part of the National Park Service Gateway National Recreation Area in New York and New Jersey.
Wounded Nature-Working Veterans is an environmental group working to buy houseboats to allow the cleanup of remote East Coast shorelines. The nonprofit wants to hire unemployed veterans and provide them training and temporary jobs cleaning the environment.
Volunteer cleanups have been held on park property since the end of January, said Daphne Yun, a spokeswoman for the Gateway National Recreation Center.
Usually about 40 people turn out for the cleanups each weekend at Sandy Hook, N.J., but only about 5 have been helping out at Floyd Bennett Field in the Jamaica Bay area where the Wounded Nature workers will be. The cleanups are scheduled to continue through the middle of next month.
“We are really looking forward to having the Wounded Nature group come help us out,” she said.
Socha’s group, which will be helping clean beaches in New York from March 20 through March 22, has held cleanups on beaches in the Charleston area.
But Socha, a former Marine with a lifelong love of nature, said the goal is to buy houseboats so more remote areas can be reached. That will allow crews to concentrate on an area for several days without needing to be ferried back and forth to work sites. A related goal is jobs for veterans.
“I thought we could tie in the two items. I knew there was a problem with veteran unemployment,” Socha said. “The other thing is the veteran kind of represents the right and the environmentalists kind of represent the left. I think it’s great for the two to spend some time together and see the other one isn’t that extreme.”
He says the training will be about more than picking up trash. The vets will learn about boats and will be trained in giving talks, working on computers and using social media.
The organization is working on funding to get its first boat. After that, Socha estimates it will cost about $1.4 million a year to operate each boat with insurance and fuel.