Throughout my years of involvement with the AIA, I have constantly been reminded of the value of my membership through the actions of AIA members. It’s always gratifying to me when architects work together to make a difference.

This past winter, AIA New Jersey regional director Jerry Eben, AIA, and AIA New Jersey president Jack Purvis, AIA, invited me to visit their home state. This was my chance to see firsthand the damage done by Superstorm Sandy. We drove to a still-closed beach in Mantoloking Township for a close look at heartbreaking devastation. For me, it was an all-too-familiar sight.

When I became president of AIA Florida in 2004, the state was hit with four severe hurricanes in a matter of six weeks. What I witnessed on the Jersey Shore reminded me of the terrible destruction I had seen in Florida. But that wasn’t the only similarity.

Back then, and now in New Jersey, AIA members sprang into action, first to provide humanitarian aid, then disaster assistance, and ultimately to begin working with their communities to lead the recovery, planning, and rebuilding efforts.

On the night of Oct. 25, Sandy’s tidal surge flooded the downtown Manhattan offices of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. The basement archives, library, 3D printers, plan desk, and servers were under 18 feet of water. On their main floor, water covered the phones, computers, and all reference materials. The firm was shut down, but not for long. The response of AIA members and components was immediate: Architects rushed to provide assistance, and space was made available for the firm to carry on its work.

Early this spring, the AIA partnered with Hunter College Urban Affairs and Planning to launch the Staten Island Planning for Recovery Program. The effort calls for residents to help devise a plan for the redevelopment of Sandy-devastated neighborhoods. This is how AIA New York state vice president for government advocacy Timothy Boyland, AIA, describes their work: “We are trying to bring [residents] together with professional guidance and expert input … to come up with a planning vision for their neighborhoods.”

Vision, recovery, hope. AIA members working together as leaders helping our communities become better places to live. That’s what it means to be an architect. When we dare to lead, the value of AIA membership is in the giving, and not the getting—it’s when we’re at our best.

Mickey Jacob, FAIA, 2013 President