Local Pays it Forward to Team Rubicon in Coronavirus Relief Effort

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 After Hurricane Sandy devastated Rockaway in 2012, one of the many organizations that stepped up to the plate to help was Team Rubicon. The efforts of this organized group of volunteers, mostly made up of veterans, were not soon forgotten. One local, Ed Shevlin, sure didn’t forget, and when an opportunity arose to pay it back to the group that helped lift Rockaway up after one of its most difficult times, he jumped right on it. As New Yorkers faced the new challenge of coronavirus, Shevlin stepped up as a volunteer for Team Rubicon and other charitable organizations to uplift fellow New Yorkers through the pandemic.

At the time of Hurricane Sandy, Ed Shevlin was a member of another group  that many considered to be heroes after the storm—the NYC Department of Sanitation. It was then that he learned of Team Rubicon, which had set up operations on Rockaway Beach Boulevard near Beach 124th Street. As part of Shevlin’s role operating the sanitation motor pool, he had the responsibility of transporting fellow sanitation workers to their trucks and equipment around Sandy-devastated areas. In between those drop-offs, Shevlin had some free time, so he put it to good use. “I would drive past Team Rubicon’s command post and would drive their people out to jobs on their list,” Shevlin said.

The efforts of Team Rubicon, mucking and gutting out flooded homes and removing debris, was praised by locals in need. “Everybody in town has a favorable opinion of them,” Shevlin said. So when coronavirus started to hit the city and Team Rubicon put out a call to help those facing this latest disaster, Shevlin answered.

Shevlin’s experiences helping others as a sanitation worker during Hurricane Sandy stuck with him. “I don’t ever want to assume the role of victim unless I’m lying flat on my back. As long as I’m healthy and strong, it’s important for me to be of service,” Shevlin said. “I felt great about our disaster response as a sanitation worker, and when I retired in 2015, I thought, ‘what am I gonna do now?’” When Breezy Point’s Marty Ingram, Commander of the 88th Area Command for the New York Guard, asked Shevlin to join, he took on the challenge. In March 2016, at age 55, Shevlin joined the NY Guard and became a Deputy Operations Officer of the 88th Area Command. When coronavirus struck New York, Shevlin expected to be called for a mission in response but found that his services weren’t needed.

Yet that itch to help was still there. Out of his job as a truck driver for the TV and movie industry, Shevlin had the time. “I needed to serve,” Shevlin said. Despite knowing people who died of coronavirus, including his own aunt who died in a nursing home, Shevlin was determined to take the risk to help others in need.

In early April, Shevlin started volunteering with Catholic Charities. “I worked with them for a month, helping them do volunteer work, bringing food to underprivileged people mainly in immigrant neighborhoods in Queens. People who have no safety net, no unemployment, no stimulus money. How were they going to eat? Catholic Charities filled that need and I used my pickup truck to deliver food to parishes with large immigrant populations and we fed them through that,” Shevlin said.

Through his job, he then learned of an effort, Feeding the Frontlines, in mid-April. “We set up a food truck at NYU Winthrop and I was delivering 400 meals a day to North Shore LIJ Hospital. I have a lot of family in healthcare professions, so it felt good to feed the doctors and nurses and staff there,” Shevlin said. “I was doing that two nights a week while helping Catholic Charities by day.”

In the midst of this, Shevlin had applied to help Team Rubicon. After an extensive background check process, he finally got the call and in late April, he began his mission as a volunteer for Team Rubicon. Team Rubicon’s relief efforts also focused on food support, with teams of volunteers making individual bags of food from deliveries of produce and dry goods.

“I started working with them in Staten Island and we were feeding people out there. In the course of the day, we would get 10,000 to 15,000 meals out to people in need,” he said. “It was a great feeling.” As Shevlin continued his efforts, he was transferred to another location in Brownsville that had a unique operation. “Ubers, Lyfts and green and yellow taxis all lined up on the street at 3 a.m. There would be as many as 900 of them, and we loaded prepacked boxes of food into their cabs. They were given a list of homes to deliver food to,” he said. Shevlin was made a Strike Team Leader for this effort, in which he helped organize six to eight other volunteers. He was eventually sent back to Staten Island as a Strike Team Leader, where he continued his efforts, while also putting in time to help Catholic Charities.

While Shevlin explained that while not all Team Rubicon volunteers have military backgrounds, he worked alongside many who did. “It was an amazing group of people I was working with. Many had served in Afghanistan and Iraq. There was one guy who got out six months ago and was an Osprey pilot in the Marine Corps and a graduate of the Naval Academy. There was another woman on the team who had left the Army as a First Lieutenant and had been in Bosnia as an aide to a general. She was the hardest working volunteer there with Team Rubicon,” Shevlin said.

Shevlin took a break from his efforts with Team Rubicon last week, but plans on reupping with them soon, as long as he’s needed. On Saturday, Shevlin received a personalized postcard from Team Rubicon, thanking him. “Your work is helping combat food insecurity for those hard hit by this crisis,” the note read.

Spending his time volunteering, Shevlin says it has restored his faith in humanity. “I learned that there are really good people who are willing to step up and help people who need the help,” Shevlin said. “It solidifies my faith and when you’re volunteering alongside these other great people, or when you’ve stayed home and donated to food banks, you’ve done your part. Everyone is doing their part in this crisis and it is a testimony to the American people that they always step up to help their neighbors. It’s great to be a part of that.”

 By Katie McFadden

 

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