Wednesday, May 21, 2014

SBA Honors Outstanding Disaster Recovery Efforts

Phoenix Award were presented last week during a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) National Small Business Week event. Since 1998, the SBA has presented Phoenix Awards to business owners, public officials and volunteers who displayed selflessness, ingenuity and tenacity in the aftermath of a disaster, while contributing to the rebuilding of their communities.

“These individuals demonstrated tremendous courage and resourcefulness in the midst of several devastating disasters,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet. “The Phoenix Award acknowledges their heroic efforts, and is a symbol of appreciation for their contributions to the economic recovery of their communities.”

Gianna P. Cerbone-Teoli, owner of Manducatis Rustica in Long Island City, NY, received the Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Volunteer.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the basement of Gianna Cerbone-Teoli’s Italian restaurant Manducatis Rustica was flooded, and she lost all her catering supplies and equipment.

Friends from the local church, firefighters and neighbors descended on her place and helped with the clean-up. Once the restaurant was scrubbed and patched up enough to reopen, Cerbone-Teoli reached out to help those who were struggling. She cooked meals for families in the Rockaways who experienced devastating losses after Hurricane Sandy. Messages of hope and encouragement were attached to the food packages. Collection boxes were placed outside the restaurant so those in need could get donated blankets, clothes and a fresh, home-cooked Italian meal. She also contacted state and local officials to find out what resources were available for businesses, and organized meetings at the restaurant where locals could connect to disaster recovery assistance.

Lars Åkerlund, Owner of FIKA in New York City received the Phoenix Award for Outstanding Small Business Disaster Recovery.

FIKA, which means coffee break in Swedish, was the name Lars Åkerlund gave to each of the five specialty coffee and chocolate cafés he opened in New York beginning in 2006. He was preparing for the New York Chocolate Show on October 29, 2012 when Hurricane Sandy nearly destroyed his Manhattan location, and a new place under construction in Tribeca. Flood waters poured into the basement and rose up to four feet on the first floor, destroying all the equipment and thousands of dollars of specially made treats for the chocolate show. Years of hard work was ruined in a matter of minutes, leaving Åkerlund with uninsured losses in excess of half a million dollars.

Åkerlund received an SBA disaster loan, and started the rebuilding process with the support of local customers and caring neighbors. In February 2013, Åkerlund was able to open the new chocolate factory in Tribeca, and two months later the Manhattan location reopened. They were also to increase their staff from 28 before Sandy hit, to 40 employees in April 2013.

SBA makes low-interest, federal disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses and non-profit organizations of all sizes. More information about the disaster assistance program is available at

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