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Over 30 Ways to Help Hurricane Recovery and Relief Efforts

Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts in New York City: Something for Everyone to Do


First they called Hurricane Sandy the Frankestorm and then the superstorm. Whatever you call it, millions were displaced and remain inconvenienced or incapacitated by electricity outages, lack of heat, spoiled food and rotting belongings, coastal flooding, loss of businesses and aaargh oh so much more. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced. They called it the worst NY subway disaster in 108 years, among other things. The stories of hurricane-related deaths, heroism, and tragedy could crack your heart. And so far, it's ongoing.

There's really no excuse for not helping! There's something for everyone to do. Here are over two dozen ways to help participate in Brooklyn and the tri-state region's Hurricane Sandy recovery and relief efforts.

1. Donate Money to Hurricane Sandy Recovery and Relief

Open Your Wallet: Donate! Everyone and their brother is doing it. Lady Gaga donated $1 million to Sandy relief. Major TV stations have run fundraising telethons. And while the big money is big, individual contributions add up, too. Where to give? You have lots of options. For instance, you can donate to:
  • Brooklyn Recovery Fund, a local initiative jointly launched by the Brooklyn Community Foundation, Brooklyn Borough Hall and local businesses. One million dollars was raised in the first week, with commitments from such luminaries as Jerry Seinfeld. Individuals can text $10 donations.
  • American Red Cross.
  • New York Times Neediest Cases. This annual holiday fundraiser is accepting earmarked donations for Hurricane Sandy relief that will go to eight agencies running relief operations. They include the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, Brooklyn Community Services, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York, Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, Children's Aid Society, City Harvest, Community Food Bank of New Jersey Community Service Society of New York, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, UJA-Federation of New York.
  • Your local faith organization's charity effort for Hurricane Sandy.
  • Restore Red Hook, a local initiative to support the recovery of local businesses, sponsored through the umbrella of a local non-profit; deductions are tax deductible and you can earmark them for the recovery. See website for their list of recipient business.
There are many fundraising efforts going on, and while most are well-intentioned, sometimes scammers do take advantage of people's generosity. To avoid being scammed, read 9 Do's and Don'ts of Charitable Giving in Brooklyn.

Note: You may also wish to inquire about what percentage of your contribution will go directly to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts versus organizational overhead; the higher the percentage, the better.

2. Donate Household Necessities -- But Only What's Needed, When It's Needed.

Make sure you donate what's needed, and when it's needed. No swimsuits in December or winter jackets in August, please.

A huge outpouring of donated clothes in the days right after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 resulted in a backlog of inventory; a week after the hurricane, some relief organizations specified that they don't need more clothing. (This may change as the weather cools and winter kicks in.)

In general, don't use a relief disaster as a chance to clean out your closets; try to only give what the relief agencies are asking for, when they are asking for it. Needs change. And unusable donations take up time, money, and precious transportation resources and just create another headache.

In the immediate aftermath of a hurricane or storm disaster, necessities that might be needed include: diapers, batteries, shoes, flashlights, towels, and so on. See Relief supplies being collected by Brooklyn Public Library branches.

If you give food, please don't donate goods with expiration dates that are past. If you wouldn't feed it to your family, nobody else should either!

It can be confusing to know what to give, where, and when. So your best bet is to respond to requests being put out by groups with a contact in the stricken area. (For instance, members of the Park Slope Food Coop can pick up items that have been designated by people in Red Hook as necessities, pay for them at check out and then donate them upon exiting the Coop.)

3. Spend Your Entertainment $$ on a Sandy Recover Benefit Event (There'll be tons)

As the weeks go on, many organizations, both large and small, will be holding Sandy recovery benefits. Please try to spend your money on these events rather than your usual clubs, restaurants or other forms of entertainment. The hurricane will take billions of dollars to rebuild from, and benefits are a fun, community-minded way of helping out. For instance, a "Stand Up to Sandy" benefit November 11th with Sherri Shepherd and Caroline Rhea was held at 236 West 78th Street-- yes, in Manhattan.

4. 5 Holidays Impacting Hurricane Sandy Victims: Not Just Thanksgiving & Christmas

There's nothing like a holiday to make you feel either better or worse, depending.

We have a few major holiday events coming up that may be of importance for Hurricane Sandy victims:

What Can You Do to Offer Help for the Holidays?

  • Thanksgiving: Invite someone you know who has been impacted for Thanksgiving.
  • Christmas for Hurricane Sandy Victims: Begin now to prepare gifts for displaced children for Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukah. Invite someone to spend the holidays with you. Dress up as Santa and make a visit to a shelter (but coordinate this first with the relevant authorities.)

5. 12 Ways to Help People You Know Personally Who Were Impacted by Sandy

When the hurricane strikes your cousin, the parent of your friend, or someone very close to you, the disaster recovery takes on a very different, personal kind of urgency. You may, for instance, decide to offer to sit in their car for the 2 hours it takes to fill the gas tank up during the gas shortage. Or you could offer to do a laundry. Or host those impacted by the hurricane for a respite weekend.

Here are some practical tips on how you can help loved ones and friends of friends: 12 Ways to Help People You Know Who Were Affected by Hurricane Sandy.

6. Where to Volunteer Your Time & How to Find Volunteer Opportunities

Do what actually needs doing. You might, for instance:
  • Help with food relief: Donate meals, organize, cook or serve meals, transport food supplies, clean up after group meals.
  • Head toward specific, stricken areas, but ask first if & when they need your help!. For instance, you can sign up in advance at Red Hook Initiative Relief effort
  • Volunteer at an emergency shelter: Again, first find out what they need: food preparation or collection, food servers, people to sleep over. (See list of emergency shelters here. There are certain shelters that are special needs shelters, too. )
  • Volunteer at schools: If you have school-age children in the New York City public school system, contact your school Parents Association or school Parent Coordinator to see if they are doing something and how you can help.

Where to Find Volunteer Opportunities City Wide

Many blogs, websites of elected officials, and some individuals are listing volunteer opportunities. These can be good hyper-local resources, however, beware the potential mis-match between supply and demand. For instance, say a call goes out for food at a local housing project, and then too much food appears within a few hours. It's an outpouring of goodwill, but maybe not an efficient way to use limited resources.

Here are two reliable sources where you can find specific volunteer opportunities.

  • NYC Service, the city's own volunteer hub, and
  • WNYC has a list of volunteer opportunities for Hurricane Sandy relief, in Brooklyn and city wide on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.

7. 8 Kinds of Electronics To Donate for Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

In the wake of a hurricane or a disaster, electronics can be very helpful, both for communications and to help people get their lives and businesses back in order. After all, just how connected are we? Very.

Here are some kinds of electronics that have been called for:

  • cell phones, both smart phones and simpler mobile cell phones
  • cell phone chargers
  • desktop computers
  • printers
  • laptops
  • tablets, iPads or otherwise
  • transistor radios
  • walkie talkies


  • extension cords
  • power strips from which multiple devices can charge

8. Offer Your Expertise: Are You a Plumber, Electrician, Chef, Massage Therapist?

You might not think it's special to know how to build a deck or fix a toilet, or cook chili for 50 people, but not everybody can do these things. New York is filled with people with extraordinary talents. Think about what you know and how you might help out. For instance:
  • Can you volunteer as a financial analyst, accountant, childcare worker?
  • Do you have construction trade experience and skills?
  • Are you an entertainer: a musician, singer, clown, puppeteer, story teller?
  • Can you offer homework help at emergency shelters or schools that are housing displaced students?
  • Are you in the so-called helping professions? Can you offer emotional support, free yoga or massage?
  • In Red Hook, you can list your particular skills at the Red Hook Initiative Relief effort

9. 2 Ways to Help Pets Impacted by Hurricane Sandy

It's not just people and businesses that got displaced by Hurricane Sandy. Pets suffered, too. Some died, some are lost. And, some pets are homeless too.

10. Helping Schools & Cultural Institutions Hit by Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy was an equal opportunity disaster. It flooded big, name-brand cultural institutions such as the NY Aquarium and the local schools, too. Whether its the corner art gallery or library, these organizations help contribute to the fabric of normal life. Contact one of the many cultural organizations in the impacted area and ask how you can help: the NY Aquarium, Coney Island USA, and others.

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