Volunteers Take Charge After Hurricane Sandy

 Occupy Wall Street disaster distribution center on 38 and beech Channel in St Gertrude’s Church 

Good Samaritans have come to the aid of those hard hit by Hurricane Sandy. They shovel sand out of basements, deliver meals, and supply stricken communities with pet food, medicine and legal advice. FEMA and the Red Cross are not easy to find in the post-Sandy landscape. But Doctors Without Borders, Occupy Wall Street and lesser known groups like Punishers Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club from upstate New York and Michigan’s Movement for Peace.Org  mobilized quickly and went right to work.

Occupy Wall Street has been a leading force in the relief effort. They set up the website OccupySandy.org that people find via Facebook. Donations have poured in and they quickly coordinated volunteers, sending them to areas  where people need help the most. Team Rubican,  veterans who pair their members with civilians,  go out and help with the dirtiest  parts of recovery. Nicole Green,  an ex-Air Force officer, says vets are well suited to help in chaotic situations. Rockawayreleif.org is one of several sites people are using to find out where they can go to help.

Aria Doe runs the Action Center for Education and Community Development in the middle of five Far Rockaway public housing projects.  Half her staff have no power and have lost everything. Yet they come to the Center on 58th St and Beach Channel Drive to help, distributing donated goods to whoever comes in and providing health and childcare. The Red Cross and FEMA were in touch with Doe ten days after the Sandy to ask what she needs, but they haven’t been able to follow through yet. She chokes up when she speaks of wondering whether she should pay her staff or use what funds she has to buy cribs for babies sleeping on wet mattresses. Many of the people in the projects would go without food, if not for the Center. She says “People can text  to ease their conscience but that money won’t make it to the people she is serving.” 

New Zealanders Craine Knowels and Tim Huse hooked up with a group called The  Rockaway Renegades on Facebook  and spent Sunday digging out basements. Huse said the earthquake that hit  New Zealand taught him it takes years for people to recover from a disaster.  Community leader Kevin Foley told group form Southbury, CT’s Pomeraug High School, “It is time to get your hands dirty.” The 25 volunteers came to the Rockaway’s with shovels in hand going door to door to dig out basements. On the corner of Beach Channel Drive and 44th Street I found five friends who surf in the Rockaways feeding people. They came equipped with grills, 500 burgers, 500 hot dogs and  ten pounds of rice and beans. 

I met Suzanne McCrory, whose house is close to the beach in Belle Harbor. Volunteers were cleaning her basement, hauling out furniture and building materials that they piled on the street. I asked her if she knew who was providing the help. She smiled and shrugged and said she didn’t know who they were, but said they were doing great work.

To see more of my work on Hurricane Sandy check out my stories on the Atlantic wire-

St. Francis De Sales Church  now a disaster aid station.
 A group from the Pomeraug HighSchool in Soughtbury CT takes to the streets in the Rockaways with shovels going door to door
Actor Steve Buscemi, a one time firemen shows support in Belle Harbor posing with a group volunteers 
Suzanne McCrory in front of a pile of rubble from her basement in Belle Harbor
Monsignor Brown at St. Francis De Sales Church in Belle Harbor talks to  Oscar Gubernati, with a background in disaster relief who is running a makeshift disaster relief operations from the church .
Anji Crane from Baton Rouge LA used Rockawayreleif.com via Facebook to find out where to help.
Disaster aid station across the street from the St. Francis De Sales Church in Belle Harbor
Team Rubicon uses a special military program called  Palantir normally used to diagram terrorist networks, But for their need , they use it to pinpoint areas where help is needed
 Rockaways, Nicole Green,  an ex-intelligence officer in the air force spokesman for the group, says veterans are best suited for helping out in a disaster area- it is good for them as well as the people they help

Craine Knowels, and Tim Huses  from New Zealand help out in the Rockaways
The  Rockaways Relief Organization board at the Rockaway Surf clubs disaster relief makeshift center

The Far Rockaways, Naomi Baria on of the founds of Rockawayrelief.com in the Rockaways

Aria Doe director of the Action Center for Education and Community Development in the Far Rockaways opens the school for disaster relief
Tyson Chanler of the Knicks stopped the Action Center for Education and Community Development to show supp
Action Center for Education and Community Development – a room for children set up by volunteers from the Brooklyn Waldorf School
Surfer, Juris Kupris grills hamburgers for anyone who is hungry on a the corner of 44st and Beach Channel drive. 
Far Rockaways  Shlomo Roth, of Occupy Wall Street tells people to take what they need

One thought on “Volunteers Take Charge After Hurricane Sandy

  1. Julie,
    Thank you for posting pictures. I am a teacher at a small Catholic School in Urbandale, Iowa, St. Pius X School PK-8.

    We are using our February Mission Awareness to raise funds for the families of the students at St. Francis de Sales in Belle Harbor. I am working on putting together a video of pictures to help our students better understand the sufferings of the children and families in Belle Harbor to rally their piggy banks and parent's check books to help out our fellow people.

    We have been in contact with Sister Patricia at the school to get details as to how best to help. We are having a funds drive on February 22nd to raise funds to purchase gift cards that will be donated to the families.

    I am wondering if I can I please have your permission to use your photographs in our school video? It will be seen by students at SPX to help us rally our kids to support others in need. Your pictures seem more personal and appropriate for our school aged children. Do you happen to have others that are taken at the location of St. Francis de Sales School/Church?

    Please let me know and you are free to respond here and I'll give you my school email account.

    Thank you for your time!
    Holly Russell

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