I’ve been talking about the aftermath problems of Hurricane Sandy for months now. One of the insurmountable obstacles has centered on victims not getting quick payouts or assistance from government and commercial agencies. There are people out there who haven’t had comfort in almost 10 months.
What do we do about it? Most of us don’t really have the funds to do much good on a one-on-one basis, but when people band together, that problem can get solved quite fast. As usual, I pondered and put the word out to all of our friends, asking for answers from anyone who might have an inspirational plan or story of help. And this week I heard from someone who had not only figured out a way to come to the aid of Sandy victims, but also did it in record time.
Tony Rodriguez, better known as Tattoo Tony, shot me an email explaining how he worked his creative business sense into a solution of imposing proportions. In less than three months, Rodriquez and his group were able to collect $41,000 and distribute all the funds. In a system of red tape and unemotional processes, this is nothing short of a miracle when it comes to giving back to the community.
Moreover, Rodriguez is no novice when it comes to helping others. His organization is called “Under My Skin For Life,” a charity organization created in honor of his father, Ramon M. Rodriguez. Ramon was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2005 and is thankfully now in remission. But even though days may be brighter now personally, Tony doesn’t forget the reason he started this charity, and has remained active in the community for over two years now, handling fundraisers and distribution duties the entire time.
So it was only natural for charity concert organizers Rock And Roll Heaven and the Old Bridge Metal Militia to come knocking on Tony’s door when it came time to give out the $41K that they raised for Sandy victims at their May 11, 2013, event.
Tony came up with the innovative idea to give out Visa gift cards in three denominations. This would be fair across the board to all the victims based on their specific needs. On July 28, UMSFL handed out $41,000 in gift Visa cards to local Sandy victims.
Tony’s team of dedicated and caring individuals—which includes Jon and Marsha Zazula of Zazula Entertainment, as well as John Albino of Absolute Music—did their homework, making sure all paperwork was prescreened and verified. The approved recipient was asked to simply show up with a valid ID to receive their gift card. I know, it sounds too good to be true, but true it is.
UMSFL strived to make this process as painless as possible and without the quicksand of red tape. Rodriguez and his staff set up tables and tents and quickly processed the recipients while wishing them all the best. They even had a few volunteers bring water, hot dogs and hamburgers for the folks waiting on line.
The foundation is 100 percent volunteer staffed, and every member of Tony’s UMSFL team stepped up to the challenges of collecting event money, banking, accounting and processing applications of all prospective recipients. They even went as far as calling each recipient and advising them of their greatly appreciated approval.
I hear so many stories of post-disaster ploys that plague residents. From investment scams to fake charities selling soulless and empty tiger traps, the human race can be a rather disappointing entity.
Tony Rodriguez and his band of concerned residents have done much to beat back the ugly side of humanity, and for that, they should be praised. While I know people like this don’t want any accolades, they’re getting them from me anyhow. I’ve always said, when it comes to caring, New Jersey rockers and artists are first on the chain, regardless of the cultural misunderstanding that might get pointed in their direction.
One Sandy victim asked Rodriguez, “Are you the tattoo and music people?” When she was told yes, she responded with a hearty, “Well you were the last ones I would have expected anything from, but you were the first to come through for us after nine months!” And just like that, problem solved. I’m betting that she looks at inked up rockers much differently from now on.
Great job to all involved and I hope more forward thinkers step forward and join the mounting grassroots campaign of empathy, support and action. It is the only way we are ever going to regain dignity and climb back on top as a state.
For more information on Rodriguez and his Shoreworld organization, go visit him at undermyskinforlife.org.