So, Kate and I made the trip last Thursday to the NY/NJ area to deliver donations I had been collecting for the past couple weeks and to do some volunteer work.
While researching I discovered an organization called “Occupy Sandy” www.occupysandy.org. Apparently the same people who took part in the Occupy Wall Street protests set up a grassroots volunteer network for Hurricane Sandy relief. Which is pretty cool. I never got caught up in the Occupy movement last year, so I can’t really speak on that at all, but having people handy and willing to help in places of need is always a thumbs up in my book. They had several sites for volunteering and donations and because you could “just show up” (rather than schedule a time and do registration and all that) I decided that would be a fine outlet for us to work with.
We set out at 5am to head to one of the main distribution centers, which was in Brooklyn, NY. I had never been to Brooklyn, or NYC (I know, I know ridiculous) so I was pretty excited. Plus I love a road trip. The ride was great, we left early enough to avoid traffic and made great headway until about 8:30, when I had to pee and we realized we were passing the town in Connecticut that one of Kate’s good friends lives in. We called her up and the three of us went out to breakfast at some little diner. Catching up with friends, missing rush hour traffic, and eating…it’s a three-fer.
We made our way to Brooklyn to the main distribution center at the Church of Saint Luke and Saint Matthew, where we unloaded most of our donated good. Cleaning supplies, water, food, and toiletries are what they accepted from us. We had also gathered a good amount of blankets, coats, hats and other warm weather gear which they were not accepting. So we figured we’d drop those at another location where they were needed and wanted. We said we were interested in volunteering so they dispatched us to Rockaway Beach to lend a hand there.
Mostly what we were asked to do was administrative tasks (bitch work, Kate calls it) and everything was a bit disorganized. But we did what they asked and while we were there we did some exploring of the area and got to see some of the devastation caused by Sandy. The Rockaway area was by no means the hardest hit, but there was still extensive damage. Here are some of the photos we took at Rockaway Beach:
It was crazy to see the damage and destruction up close. It was even crazier that this was nothing compared to some other areas of Jersey and New York. The people that own these ocean-front properties are no doubt devastated by this…but seeing this really made me feel for the people in poorer areas that were hit the hardest…people who don’t have homeowner’s insurance or anywhere else to go or the money to start all over again.
So with this thought, we headed to the Newark, NJ airport, where we had reservations to stay for the evening. We were very fortunate in that I was able to get free hotel room for the evening. The hotel management was appreciative that we were coming to help out their neighbors, and in return they made a generous donation to this effort in the form of accommodation for the night.
A quick dinner and to bed we went, asleep by 8pm. The next morning we headed into the city of Newark. Our parents were right; it was a rough city. I had the doors locked and was very happy that when I pulled up to the church which was serving as an Occupy Sandy Headquarters that there was a police officer parked in front of me. People were gathered inside who had stories of losing everything. They were frustrated with the government, with FEMA. I was glad that we had come because the people in this neighborhood really needed help and we knew the items we brought would be put to good use. The kind gentleman at the door helped me to unload bag after bag of blankets, coats, sweaters, gloves, and hats. We said our goodbyes, they thanked us for coming, and we were on our way again.
Another 5+ hour ride home, a one hour nap, and back to work I went.
And here I am again.
Onto the next adventure…