As thousands of homeowners along East Coast continue to dig out — and pump out — from the destructive force of nature formerly known as Hurricane Sandy, I’ve been closely tracking the largely grassroots relief, recovery, and restoration efforts in my hard-hit neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn (and yes, I’m still currently displaced from my apartment).

Although the place that I’ve called home for more than six years has a long way to go before things return to normal, the outpouring of support — in terms of physical manpower and financial/material donations — has been overwhelming, emotional, crucial. In fact, the number of volunteers who descended on Red Hook this weekend was so great that I was turned away by overwhelmed relief coordinators when I attempted to enlist myself. And a personal note to Mark's Pizzeria: Please come back. I need you.

That said, I thought I’d check in with a fantastic, design-minded organization that I followed and donated to in the wake of last year’s catastrophic earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster in Japan: Architecture for Humanity.

Late last week, the San Francisco-based nonprofit — one dedicated to providing “design, construction and development services to communities in need” — unveiled ReNew Jersey/ReNew York, a green-minded, five-point long-term reconstruction strategy for devastated-by-Sandy communities in the New York metro area and New Jersey. I thought I’d share the plan:

1. Enable our local chapters to provide technical assistance and support to existing recovery agencies.

2. Provide design and construction assistance to nonprofits and community-based organizations in affected communities to repair civic structures and public spaces.

3. Provide technical assistance to property owners, with a focus on small businesses and rental properties in low-income communities.

4. Provide community design, planning and architectural support to local agencies to rebuild and to develop model mitigation strategies, especially along the New Jersey shore.

5. Build back green. Provide assistance to replace outdated building systems with more sustainable energy-efficient solutions.

Click here to donate to Architecture for Humanity and aid in the rebuilding, restoring and renewing of communities affected by Sandy. And unlike many disaster relief organizations with high overheads, I’m pleased to say that 85 percent of funds go directly to construction and design services (the remaining 15 percent goes to administrative costs and fundraising efforts). In addition to financial contributions, find out how you can further contribute or get involved with the organization, including offering your own design/architectural services and expertise.

And this is interesting: Also in partnership with the American Institute of Architects, Architecture for Humanity has also launched a special Restore the Shore fund that specifically zeroes in on the rebuilding of the (in)famous boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J. That boardwalk and the surrounding area, as some of you may know, is the former stomping/fist-pumping/spray-tanning ground of Snooki, the Situation, JWoww, and the gang. In fact, on Nov. 15, MTV will air a special benefit program hosted by the cast of “Jersey Shore” and other celebrities to help raise funds for the Restore the Shore campaign. (Reportedly, the "Jersey Shore" house, unlike many homes and businesses around it, emerged from the storm without a scratch).

Explains MTV:

Architecture for Humanity, which provides design and construction services after natural disasters like last week's Hurricane Sandy, will then work with the borough of Seaside Heights. They will award grants to local contractors who will then begin to put the pieces back together after Sandy. Much like they did with communities in Biloxi, Mississippi, and New Orleans after hurricanes Rita and Katrina, they will help rebuild Seaside, which was ravaged by the hurricane.

Lots more info on the Restore the Shore fund, ReNew York/ReNew Jersey, and past projects from across the globe undertaken by this vital organization where the motto "Design Like You Give a Damn" is taken very seriously, over at the Architecture for Humanity website.

Related story on MNN: 5 American towns rebuilding for a greener future

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