From one day of terror, 10 years of Kindness


The Polk County Long Term Recovery Committee is seeking to have the largest volunteer rebuilding service project in Arkansas history this 9/11 Anniversary as The New York Says Thank You Foundation empowers 1,500 volunteers from across the state of Arkansas to work alongside New York City firefighters who survived the World Trade Center attacks to help rebuild Mena, Arkansas - a small town in Southwestern Arkansas devastated by a deadly tornado April 9, 2009.

The New York Says Thank You Foundation working in partnership with The Polk County Arkansas Long Term Recovery Committee and The Polk County Arkansas 4-H Foundation, are seeking to raise $350,000 to help finance the building materials and volunteer program expenses necessary to rebuild Mena’s 4-H County Extension Community Center, rebuild the homes of three needy families displaced by the tornado, and conduct numerous service projects throughout Mena in the wake of last year’s devastating tornado. Our long term goal is to strengthen the culture of volunteer service in Mena, AR by strengthening the capacity of the Polk County Long Term Recovery Committee to leverage local volunteerism that will be bolstered by this historic national community service project on the 9/11 Anniversary 2010.


About the New York Says Thank You Foundation

Started in 2003 by the suggestion of a 5-year-old boy in New York City and recognized by President Obama in 2009, The New York Says Thank You Foundation has grown into one of the Nation’s leading organizations to transform the 9/11 Anniversary into a positive and hands-on platform for national volunteer service.


Each year on the 9/11 Anniversary, The New York Says Thank You Foundation sends large groups of New York City firefighters (many of them survivors of The World Trade Center attacks), along with 9/11 family members, Ground Zero construction workers, New York City schoolchildren and scores of other volunteers from NYC to help rebuild communities around the U.S. recovering from disaster. It is our way of saying “Thank You” for all the love and support Americans from across the country extended to New Yorkers in the days, weeks, and months following 9/11. It is also our way of commemorating the extraordinary sense of kindness and service that united our Nation on 9/12.


We are joined each year by hundreds of local volunteers in all our rebuilding efforts as well as by a growing group of disaster survivor volunteers from all the communities around the U.S. we have assisted on previous anniversaries of 9/11 and who continually volunteer each year at subsequent rebuilding projects as their way to “Pay It Forward.” This group includes San Diego wildfire survivors, Hurricane Katrina survivors from Slidell, Louisiana, and tornado survivors from Utica, IL, DeGonia Springs, IN, Groesbeck, TX, Greensburg, KS, and most recently Little Sioux, Iowa where we engaged 1,200 volunteers last year.


We expect 250-300 volunteers from the above communities around the United States to join us in Mena, Arkansas for this year’s 9/11 Anniversary rebuilding project Sept. 2-5, 2010.


Nearly 7,000 people nationwide have participated in New York Says Thank You’s annual 9/11 Anniversary rebuilding projects and we have been privileged to partner with leading civic and faith-based organizations in all our projects including Boy Scouts of America, 4-H Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, United Methodist Committee on Relief, Mennonite Disaster Relief Services, United Way, and Lions Clubs. Our organization has also been featured on over 500 television news programs nationwide and we were honored as “Persons of the Week” on ABC World News Tonight on September 11, 2009.


A Brief Background

On April 9, 2009 an EF3 tornado tore through Mena, Arkansas killing 3 residents, injuring dozens, and damaging and destroying nearly 600 homes in this rural town of 5,600 people. 


In the devastating aftermath, stories of incredible service arose from the rubble as the community pulled together to try and return the town to some sense of normalcy. However, one year after the tornado, there are visible signs of the destruction everywhere in Mena. Financial gaps have also emerged that would preclude the town from getting back their 4-H County Extension Community Center and would prevent the three special families identified by Polk Country Long Term Recovery Committee from living in safe housing.


The Rebuilding Projects for the 9/11 Anniversary 2010

Working in partnership with Polk County Arkansas Long Term Recovery Committee and the Polk County Arkansas 4-H Foundation, The New York Says Thank You Foundation will help to rebuild four tornado ravaged structures over the 9/11 Anniversary 2010 weekend in an historic volunteer-driven “blitz-build” effort: The Polk County 4-H Extension Community Center. Managed by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, the Center will be a 2,400 square foot structure focused on improving the quality of life for the citizens of Polk County through research-based informal education. The Center will serve as an educational meeting space for 4-H youth, farmers, community leaders, business owners, and families, and the demonstration kitchen will provide an organized way to teach youth and adults food safety, food preparation, food preservation, nutritious and healthy meal planning. The Center will be used by an estimated 5,000 participants approximately 112 days/night throughout the year for events related to 4-H, agriculture, community and economic development, and family and consumer science.


The three family homes. In addition, our volunteers will help to rebuild the homes of three needy families identified through the case management process of the Polk County Long Term Recovery Committee and whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged in the tornado and rendered unlivable. The economic status of these families as uninsured or severely under-insured precludes them from returning to safe housing.


Other service projects. Beyond the 5 main rebuilding projects that we will conduct over the September 2-5, 2010 timeframe, we have identified other community service projects throughout the community that will be able to leverage the hundreds of lesser skilled community volunteers and the hundreds of Boy Scouts, 4-H youth, and local students we expect to volunteer including fence repair to the town’s cemetery, tree and debris removal, and general home improvement projects for the uninsured, under-insured, and lower income residents still struggling to recover from the April 9th tornado.


Volunteer labor already in place to complete the main rebuilding projects. In addition to the 1,500 volunteers we hope to generate from Mena, from across the state of Arkansas, from New York, and from across the United States during the September 2-5, 2010 timeframe, The Polk County Long Term Recovery Committee construction coordinator has already lined up significant volunteer labor among various civic and faith-based relief organizations, including the local Amish and Mennonite communities, who will be finishing the construction started during the 9/11 Anniversary 2010 volunteer kick-off rebuilding effort. This has been consistent in all New York Says Thank You Foundation rebuilding efforts nationwide where volunteers from the local and neighboring communities finish what we begin during these uplifting weekends of national community service on the 9/11 Anniversary.


We estimate this national community service project will generate 20,000+ hours of volunteer labor in Mena, Arkansas in the days leading up to and including September 2-5, 2010 and that we will generate thousands of additional hours of skilled volunteer labor among the groups who will come after we frame the main structures in order to finish out the buildings. 


In addition, we believe the long term benefit to Mena, Arkansas will be even greater than the building projects themselves as we hope to strengthen the capacity of The Polk County Long Term Recovery Committee to leverage local volunteerism that will be inspired through this special national volunteer service effort on the 9/11 Anniversary in order to sustain volunteer service throughout the community long after our volunteer group returns home.