[The following is an account of my trip to Staten Island last week. Please feel free to skip to the bottom if you are only interested in the list of volunteer and donation resources.]
Last Sunday, I met a man in his late-thirites whose entire home had been destroyed during Hurricane Sandy. Three of his neighbors had drowned, he told me, and others had been rescued by helicopter from their rooftops during the storm. Walking down Grimsby Street, located in the Midland Beach neighborhood of Staten Island, it was easy to spot his roof, which lay next to his house with “NEED FEMA. HOUSE STRUCTURE” inscribed on it. He had been waiting for FEMA to come for two days. He wasn’t one of those people who was going to complain, he just wanted them to assess and condemn his place. We tried to call the FEMA representative we had met earlier that day; she didn’t answer. We offered him food and asked if we could help him with anything else. He thanked us but declined, saying others were much worse off and needed the food more than he does. Tears streaming down his cheeks, he thanked us profusely for being there and for all that we’re doing, for all that everyone is doing.
Last Sunday, I headed out to Staten Island with my boyfriend to volunteer. After 4 hours of traveling, we showed up to the scene pictured above. We quickly found a member of the neighborhood who was organizing donations. Exasperated, she informed us that they were no longer accepting donations, except for the tarp we had brought. They had become overwhelmed with stuff and had nowhere to store it, a major concern given that the nor’easter was expected to hit in three days, which is why the tarp was needed.
Next, we headed to Midland Beach. The scene was similar there. Impromptu drop off points, overflowing with piles of clothes, cleaning supplies and canned foods, dotted the neighborhood. Cars poured onto Midland Ave, the main drag, into the early evening, with people dropping off trunk loads of donations and asking how they could help. Kids from bordering neighborhoods walked around with shopping carts full of goods that they were hoping to distribute to those in need. It was, perhaps, was of the most incredible sights I’ve ever seen or experiened. I was overwhelmed with humanity.
Yet, there was way more fresh food than people to serve. We didn’t see those kids unload even one item. And there was a dearth of the things that were most needed like headlamps, mops, shovels, gas and 3M masks.
We stopped to help a family and other volunteers clean out debris from their basement. After we finished, a cousin of the family came out and thanked us. “My one hope,” he said “is that people don’t forget. That people keep coming out and helping.” We asked if we could offer the family any food. They thanked us, but said they had already eaten and that what they really needed were mops and shovels.
This is just a snapshot of my experience. And since last weekend, I’ve been told that more infrastructure has been put in place to help the affected communities of Staten Island. Occupy Sandy, a volunteer driven organization that grew out of the Occupy Wall Street Movement and aims to fill the gap left by the Red Cross and other more conventional relief programs, have set-up a volunteer hub and distribution center on the Island. They have also set-up similar hubs and distribution centers in Sunset Park, Astoria, Brighton Beach, DUMBO, East Village, Lower East Side, Jersey City, Red Hook and Rockaway.
I share my experience for two reasons. First, I hope my story underscores the importance of figuring out the most strategic ways to support recovery efforts. I encourage everyone to look at the websites listed below and to donate only what is needed. Second, this is going to be a long, slow recovery. There will continue to be many citizens and businesses in need of donations, technical assistance, manpower and hungry, thirsty customers for months to come. I hope you will join me in helping out for the long haul.
For the next couple of months, Food+Tech Connect will be posting a weekly update of volunteer, donation and eating opportunities to help support recovery efforts. Please share tips to @foodtechconnect on twitter, on Facebook or in the comments section below.
Occupy Sandy is a coordinated relief effort to help distribute resources & volunteers to help neighborhoods and people affected by Hurricane Sandy. They are doing an amazing job of getting stuff done. Click here for the latest volunteer information or follow them on Facebook.
Occupy Sandy Wedding Registry is an amazon registry created by Occupy Sandy to make it easy for people to donate items to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Visit the registry here.
SmallKnot, a crowdfunding platform for local businesses, is opening up their platform to allow rebuilding campaigns not just for business owners, but to anyone who wants to lend a hand. If you or a group of friends are interested in running a fundraising campaign on behalf of a business affected by Sandy, please send us an email at email@example.com. More information is available here.
Tunnel to Towers Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund is raising money to go directly to Staten Island residents. More information available here.
The American Red Cross is seeking volunteers 16 or older to work 12-hour shifts at local New York City shelters. Need to be able to carry 50 lbs. Go here for more info and application.
Food Systems Network NYC is tracking volunteer opportunities here.
#dineoutNYC is promoting recovery for the restaurant industry by encouraging people to dine out in New York City, as well as tasty fundraisers for others affected by the storm. Visit the #dineoutNYC website for more information.
#EatDownTipUp is an effort encouraging people to dine and tip generously at lower Manhattan restaurants. The website features the stories of lower Manhattan restaurants’ Sandy-related losses and needs. Visit #EatDownTipUp or follow the hashtag on Twitter for more information.
Jimmy’s No. 43 does a lot for the community and local farmers, so now it’s our time to give back by patronizing their restaurant when it opens or buying tickets to upcoming events.
Northern Spy Food Co. is a small neighborhood restaurant focused on locally-sourced and seasonally-oriented food. Like other restaurants in the East Village, Northern Spy lost power, but Chef Christophe Hille decided to make the most of their perishables and cooked food for the neighborhood, for free. You can support Northern Spy by purchase gift certificates and make dinner reservations, please visit their website.
Heritage Foods, which sells sustainably-raised meat from 40 Midwest and New York-based farms, is asking people to help out the restaurants, retail shops and farms that serve and produce their products, many of which have lost thousands of dollars in waste from spoiled food and lost business. You can help these restaurants by making reservation or purchasing gift cards. To help their farmers, visit their online store and place an order.
Slow Food NYC has a list of relief needs from some local farms and food establishments.
Added Value, a Red Hook community farm and youth empowerment program, has been submerged in sea water, ruining its harvest, topsoil, beehives and office. There is also possible soil contamination. You can help by donating or volunteering. Follow their updates on Facebook. According to Slow Money NYC, Added Value is looking for replacements for technologies ruined in the flood, including 2 laptop computers (used are okay), 5 iPads and 5 Android smartphones.
Brooklyn Grange lost their apiary and over one million honey bees, which had been located at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, in the storm. Last spring, the Grange raised $22,000 through Kickstarter to build the city’s largest apiary. You can help them rebuild their apiary by donating here.
BK Farmyards’ Youth Farm at High School for Public Service had some damage and is asking for volunteers to help with clean up and repairs Saturday from 12-3pm. Location: 600 Kingston Ave, between Rutland and Winthrop Ave. More information available here.
New York Tech Responds (organized by NY Tech Meetup and New Work City) is looking for volunteers to help schools, non-profits, and small businesses to get their information systems back online. Those in need of tech-related resources can also list their needs here.
Greenmarket‘s across NYC are accepting donations of fresh produce, batteries, flashlights, and cleaning supplies to help New Yorkers recover from the storm. Donations will be delivered to City Harvest and community organizations in Red Hook, Rockaways, and Staten Island that are serving hot meals to neighborhood residents. Drop-off is on Saturday, November 3rd 8am – 1pm. Learn more here.
Red Hook Initiative needs volunteers to help sort through donations, deliver meals to the home bound, provide kitchen back up and help with clean up. Learn more here or report to 767 Hicks at West 9th starting at 10 am.
Occupy Sandy needs volunteers to distribute resources and supply donations, like blankets, candles, flashlights, batteries, water, food, socks, towels, printer paper, baby items and more. Learn more here.
Meat Hook is collecting donations for Rockaway residents, including canned goods, nonperishable food, blankets, jackets, gloves, hats, socks, plates, cups, bowls, utensils, cleaning supplies, brooms, mops, sponges, garbage bags, water and tarps. Learn more here.
Print Restaurant is preparing food for The American Red Cross and looking for ingredient, culinary volunteers, transportation to help cook for others and collaborations with other restaurants. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Neighbors Together, an organization committed to ending hunger and poverty in the Ocean Hill, Brownsville, and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods of Brooklyn, is looking for donation to repair the damage to their industrial freezer and refrigerator and recover from food loss at their soup kitchen. Donate here.
Masbia soup kitchen network is need of donations to help feeding 600+ relocated seniors at the Park Slope Armory. For only $6 they can serve one person a freshly cooked nutritious hot dinner.
Citymeals-on-Wheels has been working to ensure New York’s homebound elderly have access to food. They are in need of volunteers for meal deliveries throughout the week. They are also looking for donations to help replenish their supplies.
St. Jacobi Church in Sunset Park is opening its kitchen to volunteers looking to help to cook hot food. Bring food and supplies.
Delivery.com is asking people to convert their Delivery Points into a cash donation to City Harvest. Learn more here.
Photo Credits: Mike Lee