Good Scientists Make Good Neighbors

Superstorm Sandy came ashore a year ago, wreaking havoc on the East Coast. Two Office of Science labs, Brookhaven National Laboratory (Brookhaven Lab) and Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), also stood in its path, and also took the impact.

But good scientists make good neighbors. So during and after the storm, employees at the labs opened their doors, and arms, and wallets to their communities. PPPL served as a place of shelter, and internet surfing during the storm. Brookhaven Lab was a source of hot showers, cleaning supplies, and even Thanksgiving dinners in the aftermath.

Here's a look at how the labs served their communities, some of the efforts which continue to this day.

Brookhaven Lab:

Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts at Brookhaven National Laboratory
Brookhaven Science Associates (BSA), the company that manages and operates Brookhaven National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy, donated $50,000 last November to support ongoing local disaster relief efforts following Superstorm Sandy. The donation came from BSA's two partners — Battelle and Stony Brook University — which each donated $25,000 on behalf of BSA. In addition to the $50,000 donation, BSA matched dollar-for-dollar all BSA/BNL employee donations up to another $25,000. Donated funds are helping to support three local organizations: Island Harvest, Tri-Hamlet Disaster Relief Organization, and Rebuilding Together Long Island. BSA selected these organizations because they are on the front lines of the disaster — working closely with Long Islanders to help with immediate relief needs as well as long-term recovery.

BNL Bucket Brigade
In their usual spirit of generosity, BNLers didn't hesitate when a call went out asking for donations of cleaning supplies that would help fellow Long Islanders clean up their homes after being hit by Superstorm Sandy. BNL employees filled 200 buckets with cleaning supplies including laundry detergent, gloves, paper towels, and dust masks. Some of the jam-packed buckets were delivered to hurricane relief sites in Babylon and Lindenhurst, just two of the neighborhoods to suffer massive damage from the storm and where residents were in great need of cleaning supplies and tools such as rakes and shovels.

Brookhaven Science Associates Donates Food to Local Pantry
Employee volunteers and family and friends from Brookhaven Science Associates and volunteers from Island Harvest found themselves working side-by-side on a frosty January morning, loading food and supplies at a local food pantry. The food and supplies were generously donated by Brookhaven Science Associates, the company that manages Brookhaven National Laboratory. Island Harvest is Long Island's largest hunger relief organization and distributes food and supplies to over 570 food pantries. The effort was coordinated by Island Harvest with the Lab's Community Relations Office. These food items and supplies were made readily available to the Lab's neighbors in Mastic Beach, many of whom were affected by, and are still trying to recover from, the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Brookhaven Science Associates is the first corporate recovery team to work with Island Harvest.
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Hurricane Sandy Crews Enjoy Thanksgiving Meal at BNL
Hurricane Sandy left many Long Islanders and our neighbors on the east coast dealing with damage, and in some cases, total destruction of homes and property. But thanks to the dedicated workers from organizations including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Park Service (NPS), Long Islanders are already on the road to recovery. For the several weeks, approximately 80 employees of FEMA and NPS stayed at the Lab's Compton House dormitory. In essence, the dormitory has become their "home away from home." The workers, who were deployed to various locations around Long Island including Fire Island spend their days guiding and assisting Long Islanders in applying for FEMA funds, assessing damage, and developing a plan to rebuild neighborhoods and parks. As a "thank you," BNL provided these hard-working crews with an old fashioned Thanksgiving turkey dinner. BNL volunteers were on hand to decorate the recreation center in a Thanksgiving motif and help serve the meal to the visitors.

BNLers Help Brighten Holidays for Local Super Storm Sandy Victims
After Superstorm Sandy ripped up the east coast leaving devastation in its path, BNLers wanted to come together to help local neighbors who had lost their homes and personal belongings. It was likely that these victims of Sandy wouldn't be celebrating the holidays in usual fashion. So, Brookhaven Lab made some inquiries and volunteered to participate in the "Adopt-A-Family" program sponsored by Colonial Youth and Family Services. After asking what the neighbors to Brookhaven's south impacted by the storm needed most, the Lab was provided a list of 12 families with their ages, clothing sizes, and of course, their Santa wish list. A plea went out to all BNL staff asking if they would be willing to "adopt a family" for the 2012 holiday season. BNLers didn't hesitate at the chance to help out and shopped for toys, clothing, food, and also bought gift cards with the leftover cash they had collected.
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Brookhaven Lab Supports Superstorm Sandy Clean Up
Brookhaven National Laboratory employees joined forces with other volunteer organizations in January 2013 to help clean up debris washed ashore by the high tides and winds from Superstorm Sandy that still littered the beachfront and adjacent roads in the Lab's neighboring community of Mastic Beach. Brookhaven Science Associates (BSA), the company that manages and operates Brookhaven Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy, provided safety vests and warm hats to BSA volunteers, and clean up supplies to all who were willing to spend a few hours walking through mud on a damp January Saturday, picking up debris that could pollute the bay and damage its fragile wetlands.
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Brookhaven Science Associates Donates $20,000 for Weekly Delivery of Organic Vegetables to Local Food Pantry
Brookhaven Science Associates (BSA), the company that manages Brookhaven National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy, has donated $20,000 to provide weekly deliveries of fresh, organic vegetables for families served by the Mastics and Shirley Community Emergency Food Center. BSA's donation is providing seasonal, fresh-picked crops to feed 50 or more families each week between now and December 5. The vegetables are grown and delivered by Green Thumb Organic Farm of Watermill, N.Y. through its community-supported agriculture program. The first delivery of vegetables arrived at the pantry on Thursday, June 20.
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Brookhaven Lab Employees Help Build a Home For Local Family
On Friday, September 27, volunteers from Brookhaven National Laboratory joined volunteers from Bank of America and National Grid on a Habitat for Humanity building site in Mastic Beach. A dozen Brookhaven employees were part of the group that raised the first four walls on a home for veteran Kimberly Gilbreath and her teenage daughter Ryan. Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk teamed up with Brookhaven Science Associates (BSA, the company founded by Battelle and Stony Brook University to manage Brookhaven Lab) to help make her dream of home ownership a reality. BSA donated $10,000 to this project, half of the $20,000 it gave to Habitat for Humanity as part of its Hurricane Sandy relief effort. The team raised four walls, added sheathing, and attached hurricane straps to fortify the home against future storms. Construction on the house will continue through December, and volunteer opportunities for Brookhaven Lab employees will be available through the next few months.

PPPL, as recounted by lab writer John Greenwald

The promise of hot showers, wireless Internet access and laptop and cell phone charging stations turned PPPL into a warming center last week for persons whose homes lost power because of Hurricane Sandy. The Laboratory opened its doors from 4 to 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday in a community outreach program arranged by Dolores Stevenson, deputy director of the Site Protection Division, and Jamie Alkhateeb, planning and training coordinator for site protection. Helping to greet and escort visitors were volunteers from departments throughout PPPL.

Among the 16 guest arrivals were Kerry and Em Kay of West Windsor. They learned about PPPL through the website Planet Princeton and happily plugged in their laptops in the cafeteria, where Em worked on homework and Kerry Kay surfed the Web. The mother and son had first tried the West Windsor Senior Center but found it crowded. "This is a great thing," Kerry Kay said of the outreach program.

Guest Dave Beard made straight for the showers in the Shop Building section of the Laboratory. Beard said his Pennington house had limited generator power, creating what he called "frontier vacation" conditions. He brought his laptop to the cafeteria after taking his shower and sat down at a table to work.

Also drawn to the Laboratory were Alan and Darlene Birnbaum, who heard about the outreach program from the West Windsor Police Department and brought their iPad and cell phones for charging. They settled in the cafeteria near an overhead TV screen, chatted with engineer Mark Smith, who monitored the area, and watched news programs on CNN. Television "is something we haven't seen in five days," Darlene Birnbaum said.

Planning for the outreach program got started last Wednesday. "We thought if we could get together a plan that would be great," recalled Stevenson, who discussed the idea with Alkhateeb. Support for the program came from the DOE site office, which encouraged the Laboratory to consider how it could help local persons affected by Sandy. Stevenson and Alkhateeb worked out the details with PPPL Associate Director Michael Williams, along with Jerry Levine, head of Environment, Safety, Health and Security, and Susan Murphy-LaMarche, director of Human Resources.

To publicize the program, members of the Site Protection Division distributed "flyers to the Plainsboro Emergency Operations Center and other key locations. Jeanne Jackson DeVoe of the Communications Department expanded the effort by drafting a notice that went to local media, including websites and radio stations. PPPL also released a newsletter highlighting those efforts.

Superstorm Sandy has long passed, but the commitment of Office of Science labs to their communities remains.

The Department's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information please visit For more information about Brookhaven Lab, please go to: For more information about PPPL, please go to:

Charles Rousseaux is a Senior Writer in the Office of Science,