New York, NY–After trying and failing to volunteer with a bunch of established organizations, I finally found Occupy Sandy — and more specifically, Astoria Recovers. Within hours of adding my name to a Google Doc on their site, I was offered a ride out to the Rockaways with a neighbor I’d never met. Five of us drove out to the firehouse on Beach 58th St. on Sunday morning with supplies that made sense, thanks to Occupy Sandy’s list of what was really needed (batteries, flashlights, toiletries, cleaning materials, and the like).
The folks at the firehouse directed us to St. Gertrude’s on Beach 38th St. Even though the church had itself suffered major damage, they were running quite an efficient operation, marshaling dozens of volunteers to get food, clothing, and supplies to people in the hard-hit neighborhood. In fact, things were run so well that we felt a little superfluous. So when a local woman grabbed one of us on the sidewalk and asked for help cleaning up her little storefront church around the corner, we took her up on it.
The five of us spent a couple of hours ripping up the church’s ruined carpet in semi-darkness, with only a Leatherman for a tool. We hauled the carpet scraps to the sidewalk to await the sanitation trucks. As we left, a group of church members shook our hands and thanked us profusely. They still have a long way to go toward recovery, but we were glad we could help in some small way.
The damage in the Rockaways was so staggering that I can’t stop thinking about it — or trying to help. Today I brought some mops and work gloves to a drop-off site in Astoria, then spent a few hours sorting donated clothes at a local gym. Tomorrow I’ll be part of a group making hot meals for delivery from northwest Queens to our neighbors in the southeast. It’s not enough — it couldn’t possibly be enough — but it certainly feels more helpful than sitting on my couch and watching horrific images on TV.
Thank you, Occupy Sandy. I am proud to be a part of this group.