September 11, 2011 Source: Huffington Post  |  This article by Eleanor Goldberg describes three nonprofits that emerged out of the aftermath of 9/11. Started by families and friends of 9/11 victims, these organizations have given survivors a way to express themselves, whether through advocacy or service.

For instance, New York Says Thank You is an organization of 9/11 responders, family members and survivors who come together to help other communities that have been touched by disaster. The organization’s service projects have attracted 1,000 volunteers so far. According to Goldberg, since its inception New York Says Thank You has rebuilt “a barn in Georgia that serves as a rehabilitation center for children with special needs and teens with criminal records. It rebuilt a Boy Scout camp in Omaha where four kids died in a tornado. It built a facility in North Dakota that enables wounded warriors to ski.”

Jeff Parness lost a friend in the September 11 attacks and says that his work with New York Says Thank You helps those who survived the tragedy to feel empowered and to help others who have temporarily lost hope. “It’s all about 9/12 and paying it forward,” said Susan Littlejohn, the owner of the Georgia barn for special-needs kids that was destroyed by a tornado. She is now rebuilding with the help of New York Says Thank You.

“What does it mean to transform a tragedy into something hopeful?” Parness asked. “It’s about 9/12. Never forget the kindness and the humanity.”

But perhaps equally as important, this story demonstrates how the nonprofit sector gives ordinary people the means to give voice to and organize helping hands around what holds meaning for them.—Ruth McCambridge