Yesterday, I posted photos by Pastor Tom Martinez of Sandy Relief Volunteers at the Greenpoint Reformed Church in Brooklyn. Shortly after, I got an email from the Katie Couric Show. They saw the pictures I had posted and wanted to know more about the grassroots relief efforts I’ve been writing about in Brooklyn. Next thing I know, I was asked to be a live blogger on Katie’s show during ABC’s Day of Giving.
Indeed, parts of Brooklyn and Queens were very hard hit. Nearby in the Rockaways, Coney Island and Red Hook, homes were lost, property damaged, and businesses devastated. Public housing in Red Hook and Gowanus have been without electricity, heat, water and elevator service since the storm.
Thankfully, people in ways large and small have spontaneously come together to help others. Groups like Red Hook Initiative, which was primarily a youth center, have stepped in to coordinate volunteer efforts locally. In Park Slope, two shelters were set up by the city at the Park Slope Armory and the John Jay High School Complex. Congregation Beth Elohim and other groups have been busy cooking and providing clothing and care for the evacuees from the Rockaways that arrived by the busload.
One woman sent $20 when she only had $40 in her bank account.
On Friday, I was forwarded an email from a local woman who was inviting friends and neighbors to cook a hot dish that she would drive over to Red Hook the next morning, providing a hot lunch for those in the Red Hook Houses. The Old Stone House in Park Slope, a museum and cultural center, is now a drop-off site for donations. Yesterday the House was filled to the gills with volunteers sorting through the dry goods, food, water and clothing that was contributed.
I reached out to a local pastor because I wanted to get her take on the recovery efforts in Brooklyn. In an email, Pastor Ann Kanfield of Greenpoint Reformed Church wrote, “I am amazed by the outpouring of goodwill and a real desire to help among New Yorkers, but also from the world at large. We’ve received monetary donations from friends across the country. One woman sent $20 when she only had $40 in her bank account. She felt grateful for what she had and she wanted to help those who needed it more than she did.”
Interestingly, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been incredibly effective in the coordination of volunteers and supplies. In Brooklyn, they’ve been coordinating services from St. Jacobi Evangelical Luteran Church in Sunset Park. “All those days out in Zucotti Park with no heat and electricity prepared them for times like this,” wrote Pastor Kanfield. “They are experts in how to feed large numbers of people, how to run generators off vegetable oil and how to provide medical care to those in need.
The number of volunteers who came out and continue to help with the recovery is overwhelming. To me, it’s one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen in my life. I hope this spirit of generosity lasts for a very long time. On the eve of a very divisive election, it’s inspiring that people are feeling such a pull towards others, such a sense of concern, a real desire to help.
It’s really quite beautiful.
On Wednesday, November 7th at 7PM Louise is sponsoring a benefit and performance for Brooklyn victims of Sandy at Two Moon Art House and Cafe.
What do you think about Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts?