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Want to Help? Where and How to Volunteer for Hurricane Sandy Recovery

Faith Organizations & Grassroots Volunteers, "Occupy Sandy" Take the Lead


The recovery effort from Hurricane Sandy will take not weeks or months, but years. Entire communities were impacted, and of course some of the worst hit were the poorest and most vulnerable: those living in nursing homes, in beachside cottages that were never meant to be winterized, but were. Communities such as Breezy Point, Belle Harbor, and the Rockaways, as well as many areas in Staten Island, were damaged to a degree unimaginable. Global warming has proven its power, and while rebuilding, New Yorkers are asking ourselves about whether, and how, to repopulate waterfront neighborhoods. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people volunteered, and are continuing to do so. The majority probably came from the five boroughs of New York City (there's no real data). But out of town relatives, folks from nearby states and upstate New York, specialized crews from all over the nation came to help the recovery effort.

If you'd like to pitch in and don't know where to begin, your best bet is to join in with an organized group that has defined a role. And whether you are an accountant, a doctor, a construction worker, a student, a reasonably good cook, or just someone with a driver's license, the sad truth is, there'll be work for you to do for some time ahead.

1. Coney Recovers

Coney Recovers is, in its own words, "an initiative of Alliance for Coney Island, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting “the People’s Playground” and helping local residents. They've been active since day one of the relief effort. Check their website, as relief needs change. For instance, they were swamped with offers to help on Thanksgiving. But the day after Thanksgiving, they still needed a couple dozen volunteers to help receive, sort and distribute supplies.

2. Rockaway Relief

You can log into Rockaway Relief.com and see what is needed, how to get there, and how to volunteer. The idea here is not to just show up unannounced and find a place for yourself to be useful. In the months-long, ongoing recovery effort, there's increasing division of labor. Some cook. Some rebuild. Some schlep. Some drive. So if you want to help out in the devastated Rockaways, this is one way to do so.

This is a decentralized effort, so you might find yourself going to one staging site one day, and a different place the next. There may be a tiny fee for transportation, which is provided.

Why it is called Rockaway Relief: This program works mostly in the area of Queens, a borough of New York City, called the Rockaways, that was hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.

3. Red Hook: Red Hook Volunteers

The nonprofit Red Hook Initiative organization coordinated thousands of volunteers in the first month of the recovery effort. However, as of November 20, 2012, RHI has returned to its core mission and instead is offering comprehensive social services, economic recovery through job training and development.

If you are still interested in volunteering in Red Hook around hurricane relief, an independent group has set up a new volunteer network. Call 718-306-9149 or email redhookvolunteers@gmail.com. Another organization is Red Hook Recovers


Occupy Sandy's website has a regularly updated info page where you can find out what the current projects are, and sign up to volunteer. As with many of the projects, you can hitch a ride with the group from a centrally located meeting point in Brooklyn (or elsewhere in the city) so that you can get to know what the tasks ahead are, bond with your group, and arrive as a ready-to-work team.

Why it is called "Occupy Sandy": The original two dozen or so organizers of this volunteer initiative, heralded as one of the most effective in the first days and weeks of the hurricane recovery effort in November 2012, were instrumental in the Occupy Wall Street's group's protests that began in New York in September, 2011 in New York City and nationwide.

CBS News on Occupy Sandy.

5. Faith Organizations

Words cannot describe the response of the faith communities in New York City to the needs of those whose lives, homes, finances, and businesses were destroyed or hurt in the severe weather event known as Hurricane Sandy.

It is safe to say that not a faith organization exists in the city that has not sent food, clothes, volunteers and offered information and support to those impacted.

    In Sunset Park, the St. Jacobi Church (Between 54th and 55th on 4th Ave in Sunset Park) is a major organizing center. In Park Slope, Beth Elohim Synagogue has a roster of two hour shifts for which you can sign up, and nearby Two Boots pizzeria is also coordinating food preparation and delivery.


6. Staten Island: GiveitForward.com

A local publisher whose home is in Staten Island organized a fundraising effort called GiveItForward.

7. Shop Online, Send Needed Supplies to Occupy Sandy "Wedding" Style Registry

Cleverly adapting the notion of a wedding registry to disaster relief, Occupy Sandy has a "relief registry" where you can log on, see what's needed, order it for delivery and know that your money has been put to good use. The beauty of this idea is that items are listed and unlisted according to changing circumstances. One month, the need may be for diapers and wool coats. A few months later, the need may be for picnic coolers and diapers. One thing you can be sure of: there's almost always a need for diapers, whether for babies or adults.

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