It has been a full week and a day since Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. And while most of us Lot18ers are getting back to normal routines – packing like sardines into crowded subways cars at rush hour and worrying about what we are going to have delivered to the office from our favorite Korea-town lunch spots – there are still hundreds of thousands without power, heat and water. About ten thousand are being housed in city shelters this week. To compound things, a new evacuation order is in place in low-lying areas because of the nor’easter that's rolling through our area.
Yes, there are a couple of Lot18ers still without power (Dave, David and Michelle, we feel for you), and then there are those who spent small fortunes having trees removed and roofs repaired (you know who you are). But for the most part Lot18ers escaped relatively unscathed. I for one had a 150 tree fall just feet from the front of the house I moved into in August, and Elliot, one of our developers, had water creep halfway up the block where he lives on Staten Island but miraculously not reach his house. Lots were without power but most were able to make it to the home of a friend or family member.
Knowing how damn lucky we were, a bunch of Lot18ers were itching to do something more. Over the weekend and last night no fewer than seven of us joined the hundreds who have been volunteering at the many Red Cross shelters set up around the city.
What a heavy dose of reality that was. At the Park Slope Armory, hundreds of elderly people with mental health issues had been evacuated from homes in the Rockaways. They are sleeping on cots, dining on army rations and going without shower facilities as of yesterday. All their belongings were left behind, and they are now surviving on donations. They will be housed there for weeks, we were told. While it is devastatingly heartbreaking that these people are displaced, it was heartwarming to see the smiles on the faces of the residents and hear their words of gratitude as they were handed a cup of tea and a MRE (meals ready to eat) army ration cookie.
No photos are allowed from inside the shelter to protect the privacy of the residents, but someone posted these shots on twitter of the Armory’s volunteer-run Wellness program:
and the Election night watch party:
As organized disaster relief groups like Americorps get settled in the city, and the need for civilian volunteers seems to be less dire, I have been left wondering what I else I can do in a grassroots kind of way. Last night I received this email forward:
I just ordered 36 blankets and had them shipped to the Rockaways for under $300 total; the company said they'd put them in the mail today. If you're still looking for ways to help / if you know anyone else who is, this is a good one, I think! People out there are still without power and heat, and it is getting really, really, really cold.
Also interesting: the owner of the company I ordered from said that FEMA often contacts them for this sort of emergency but they haven't yet. (Per below.)
New York Communities for Change
2-4 Nevins Street, 2nd Fl, Brooklyn NY 11217
New York City Council Member James Sanders, Jr.
Attn: Donovan Richards
234-26 Merrick Blvd.
Rosedale, NY 11422
I guess I’ll be sending blankets to the Rockaways.
If I have successfully prodded you into action with this post, here are a couple of ways you can make a difference:
- Follow @sandyvolunteer on twitter for real time updates on the needs of those affected.
- Work an overnight shift at a local shelter: http://www.nyc.gov/html/misc/html/2012/hurricane_shelters.html.
- Send donations to the Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/charitable-donations.
- Adopt a Sandy pet, or donate to the ASPCA http://www.aspca.org/ or Sean Casey Animal Rescue http://www.nyanimalrescue.org/.