I can’t really say enough good things about Occupy Sandy. (Skip to the bottom for their complete contact details.) When you drive out to the Rockaways you won’t see a big Red Cross presence. You’ll see one National Guard outpost, and a few FEMA workers. Many residents must walk miles to get agency help and they often are too afraid or too cold or too whatever to travel that far. This is not anyone’s fault, necessarily. These agencies are great (I’ve been in touch with them all while volunteering and they were incredibly helpful and sweet). They’re also huge bureaucracies that can only be so many places at once. They aren’t known for moving fast.
Instead you will see grassroots volunteers fanning out all over Queens and Staten Island, in many more places than the Red Cross, FEMA, or the National Guard. They’re not hampered by red tape and their mission is flexible… one day it’s cleaning trash, another it’s making sandwiches, another it’s trying to organize donations.
Now as awesome as this is, the grassroots thing has it’s own set of problems to manage… lack of organization, lack of communication, lack of transportation, and volunteer bottlenecks (ex: too many people working in Red Hook and no one in Brighton Beach because it’s so much easier to get to Red Hook.)
Occupy Sandy has done an incredible job of fending off the chaos and getting information to people on the ground (I texted them with them all day as they directed me to different spots in the Rockaways). Their hubs have become centers for donations, intel, ride shares, and important resources for groups like ours, people who want to help in a targeted, effective way.
Does it still look like Mad Max in lots of the areas where Sandy destroyed homes and lives? Yes. Are the donation centers a bit chaotic? Yes. Is the work piecemeal? Do your tasks change seemingly by the minute? Do donation sites change? Yes, yes, yes. But there is a system and it sprang up in a matter of days.
To support and work with Occupy Sandy, check them out here.
For realtime updates from Occupy Sandy (one of the best sources of information around), click here.
Follow Occupy Sandy on Twitter @OccupySandy
For regular, up-to-the-minute text updates, text @occupysandy to 23559
If you’re heading out to the Rockaways or Staten Island, look through the Occupy Sandy site for tips on what to bring, where to donate, how to be safe, and which donation sites need what things.
Here’s some info on their main distribution centers:
St. Jacobi Church is a main distribution center where volunteers can show up anytime after 10am to help. If you have a vehicle and gas, you can transport people and supplies to various locations. If you can’t make it out to the Rockaways, Coney Island, Staten Island etc. OS will try and get you there.
St. Jacobi Church
5406 4th Ave
Saint Luke and Saint Matthew Episcopal Church at 520 Clinton is another huge hub. Like St. Jacobi, be in touch with 520 Clinton for rideshares, donation drop offs, supply pick ups and other information.
Saint Luke and Saint Matthew Episcopal Church
520 Clinton Avenue
on twitter: @520clintonOS