Volunteers pay it forward, years after 9/11

BETHEL ACRES, Oklahoma - After the 9/11 attacks, people from all over America headed to New York City, wanting to help in any way they could. Since then, New Yorkers like Charlie Sadler have been working to return the favor.

At a recent barn raising in Bethel Acres, Oklahoma, CBS News found Sadler working around the clock. What those toiling around him shared in common, he said, was "a big heart and a great sense of humor."

Sadler drove 26 hours from his regular job as a New York City police officer to help rebuild the 1 Day Ranch, an animal rescue center. The barn was destroyed by a tornado last year.

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Charlie Sadler and other volunteers with the New York Says Thank You Foundation pay tribute to those who helped New York City heal by helping other communities hit by disaster to rebuild.
CBS News

"The barn was structurally unstable to the point that it was condemned we were not allowed to have animals or people in that building ever again," said Maeghan Hadley, the center's owner.

Hadley had no means to rebuild it. That's where Sadler came in. The two connected through the New York Says Thank You Foundation. The group was started after 9/11 by New Yorkers who wanted to thank people all over the country who helped the city heal. Every year, the foundation chooses a community affected by a natural disaster and their volunteers help rebuild something that was lost.

"It makes you feel good to put a smile on someone's face that's in a bad spot," said Sadler. "That's what it's all about."

Sadler knows about loss. His close friend, New York fireman Joseph Hunter, died on 9/11. As a tribute to him, in 2005 Sadler joined the New York Police Department. Then in 2012, he lost his Long Island home to Hurricane Sandy.

New York Says Thank You volunteers helped Sadler rebuild his house. Now, he's in Oklahoma returning the favor.

"I've been on both ends and this is a lot more fun."

Some 1,000 people from 18 states came to share in this act of kindness.

"This is a huge blessing for us, and next it will be us paying it forward because we'll all be doing this from here on in," said Hadley.

"I hope there is no disaster, but life is life and we'll go one day at a time, wherever we're needed, we'll go," said Sadler.

They say no matter what or where the disaster, they'll show that help and hope are never far away.