By Avra Bossov, NFTY Social Action Vice-President
Being immersed into a brand new environment with people you don’t really know beyond name and where they’re from. Not being sure of what is going on around you, but going with the flow, along for the ride. Becoming so enthralled in that experience that the last night brings tears and dreading the reality that comes in the morning and travel. And then going through withdrawal because you are no longer in the place you were with those same people.
Sounds like a NFTY event, right?
On May 4, 2007, a tornado left the community of Greensburg, Kansas in its wake. With phone and power lines down, debris everywhere, chaos ensued as loved ones and friends tried to find each other.
Almost five years later, we came to help out doing small projects within the community and to learn about the transformation the town has gone through since.
In rebuilding their community, Greensburg decided to rebuild sustainable. In its rebuilding, the town now has the most LEED buildings per capita in the entire world. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard utilizes a ranking system, where buildings earn points based on having energy-efficient features.
Many buildings in Greensburg are LEED certified, a couple of them even achieving LEED platinum status for scoring in the top category. For example, the town’s media center, courthouse, business incubator and regional school have all met LEED standards.
Another notable LEED building is the local John Deere dealership called BTI, the only dealership in the entire world to earn LEED platinum status. The dealership provides local farmers with combines and other necessary machines to be successful, but it has also provided for much publicity of green awareness, causing “sustainable” to enter the John Deere Company’s vernacular.
As we took tours of all these buildings, we learned about all the green technology. I also had the opportunity to learn about the oil and natural gas industry, since they are two of Kansas’s natural resources. Another one of those abundant resources is wind.
The concept of wind energy is not new to the area, but the way harvest it is. Greensburg has a wind farm that produces enough energy to power all the homes, and various buildings – the hospital and John Deere dealership – also have their own wind turbines to provide natural energy for them.
Beyond tours, we also completed projects in the town that seemed small but made a huge difference. Our three main volunteer sites were GreenTown, the local grassroots sustainability organization, where we helped with gardening and landscaping; the Youth for Christ teen center, where we painted and cleaned; and the newly-built senior center, where we helped transfer items that had been in storage since the tornado and cleaned them before they were arranged in the building. Throughout these projects, we really formed relationships with the people we were helping and got to hear their stories about the tornado and their lives in general.
In looking back, it is comfortable to know that there can be immersive experiences beyond NFTY. Opening yourself up to new opportunities and finding unique ways to help people is something we learn in NFTY that can be applicable to the rest of our lives. I strongly suggest if you ever have the chance to do something so different, yet so familiar…do it.
Just like what happens after your second NFTY event, you will come to love and value what comes of taking that chance.