Opportunities abound for those wanting to help Sandy survivors
How can volunteers deploy themselves with the least frustration and to the maximum benefit of Sandy's survivors?
"Everything is changing so rapidly," Samaritans should ascertain what that day's needs are before showing upor preparing donations that may not be needed, said Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for New York Sen. Daniel Squadron, who has been running massive relief efforts on the Lower East Side. (Hint: Your 2004 lavender bridesmaid dress is not needed, and while sweatpants have been in demand, many places already have more than they need.) "Everything is in flux and the needs change," throughout each day, said Spitalnick.
"The best way for people to find out what the needs are is to go to Nycservice.org," the city's omnibus for volunteerism, said Kathy Walling, vice president of marketing and communications for the United Way New York City. "The whole home page is nothing but volunteer opportunities related to Sandy." Organizations there list efforts to pick up debris in parks, rip out rotting dry wall in flooded churches, repair damaged homes and help affected residents fill out applications for FEMA assistance.
Many people, frustrated by what they saw as slow response times by major relief organizations, jumped in to start their own guerrilla philanthropy. They set up web sites to allow people to directly request and offer assistance. They turned their Facebook and Twitter accounts into virtual fire brigades to supply generators, housing, hot meals and elbow grease to people requesting them.
When Cheryl Gangemi, 43, the office manager for Crifasi Realtors in Middle Village, Queens, began seeing reports on her Facebook feed about specific families in Breezy Point, Howard Beach, Broad Channel and the Rockaways who had been hard hit, she converted her office into a donation center that funneled relief goods to people requesting them. "We don't need any more clothing donations," said the Middle Village mom. "What they need now is toiletries, garbage bags, rubber gloves, feminine hygiene products, pet food, cleaning supplies and ready-to-eat foods, like pudding cups. Pasta is no good because you have to cook it," she explained.
Gangemi is now hooking up local contractors who offer to work for free with devastated homeowners. "A lot of my friends are fostering pets because the people need to get themselves together -- the homes in Breezy Point are burned to the ground -- and they all had pets," she added.
If you want to help in your own way, keep this in mind:
Both short- and long-term housing are acutely needed. If you have a spare bedroom or apartment, you can probably find a friend of a friend or relative on your Facebook or Twitter account who will gladly accept whatever you have.
Sandy survivors also need things such as baby sitting and pet fostering services: It's hard to hold down a job, find a new home and deal with your destroyed one while taking care of the kids and the dog.
Transportation assistance and gas is also in demand.
Network. Ask around. Post what you're offering up on social media.
Contact your elected representatives. Many are coordinating relief efforts. Here are some other options:
You can sponsor a physical or virtual food drive.
If you can't give your time, you can still give of yourself. Click "donor center locations" to find a place to donate near you.
The nonprofit in NYC that matches volunteers with gigs that suit their interest.
Fill out a form to join the Food Bank's "Response Team."
WHERE YOU CAN GO TO PITCH IN
The city's all-purpose omnibus volunteering site allows you to peruse all the volunteering opportunities organizations have listed: Going door to door to check on the elderly and infirm, donating blood or food, sorting clothing and delivering meals and food. People can also email Nycservice@cityhall.nyc.gov for information.
This feisty, user-friendly site was started by the Rockaways-raised Mozilla designer Jessica Klein shortly after Sandy hit. Able-bodied people who have shovels and tools are needed to help dig the sand out of flooded homes and unearth buried cars. Work gloves, hand warmers, batteries, face masks and black garbage bags are also needed.
Hosted by community organizations helping to reclaim the forgotten borough in conjunction with Occupy NYC, SIR organizes disaster relief with daily updates.
A rolling blog of where people are needed to sort donations and clear out homes and what goods are needed.