11 Systems to Help Victims of Sandy


[photo: Aly left, aka @alywalansky and Allie aka @dearstormer during Aly’s Park Slope Beauty Bounty stoop sale]

It’s 8 a.m., the hour formerly known 9 a.m., and I’m catching a taxi to Target to get blankets, batteries, flashlights. I’m attempting to meet Congregation Beth Elohim’s  deadline of 10 a.m. – that’s when volunteers are loading up and driving out to the Rockaways, Staten Island, and other coastal spots devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

The taxi driver, who seems particularly conversational, asks me what I’m up to today. I tell him that I’m shopping for supplies for folks in the Rockaways.

He looks back at me, “I live in the Rockaways…” He says, “Thank you so much… “

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“I haven’t been able to work until today. We haven’t seen any of the news. Our house was flooded and…”

He doesn’t finish and I don’t want to press him further.

I’m not a congregant at Beth Elohim, but it’s only a few blocks away in Park Slope and it’s a very organized, concerted effort. I’d heard about their drive through their Facebook page…  which I’d read about on New York Times‘ reporter Jodi Kantor’s Facebook page… which I heard about from my ultra-connected friend Lauren Young, on Facebook….and so on and so on. Social media has been an amazing source of volunteering and giving opportunities — and, of course, confusion and misinformation, too. I arrived at Red Hook yesterday with supplies only to be told they weren’t taking any more, just hot food, then I was directed to a community center down the street who was happy to take the goods. A little chaos after a crisis like this is to be expected.

But since we’re all about systems here, I thought I’d share a few opportunities and “systems” from folks helping people through this terrible tragedy. Warms the heart and soul…

1. System: Drive Donations to Staten Island, Rockaway Beach


[photo: Hurricane Sandy aftermath at Rockaway Beach. Photo: Erik McGregor from Flickr]

Who: Jody Jones, Consultant, Chelsea

Cars loaded up with gas seem to be one of the most in-demand items right now, especially for New Yorkers who are typically subway dependent and car-free. So folks like Jody Jones decided to ask for donations via Facebook, pick up the loot and head out to the Rockaways for door to door delivery. Good egg that one.

2. System: Sell Goodies in Your Beauty Closet For Charity

Who: Aly Walansky, Beauty Blogger, Park Slope

Today at noon, Aly set up shop on her stoop and has been hawking her beauty stash for charity. Aly wrote on Facebook,  Take as much as you want, and give as much as you can – every single cent of proceeds will go to the Red Cross for Sandy relief. If you have no interest in products and want to donate, we’re currently fashioning an adorable donation jar! And…I shall bake cookies! Fresh homemade from the heart cookies! Starting at noon, tomorrow, November 4 – until we run out of stuff! If you have anything you too want to add, or just want to hang out, that is where you will find us!”

3. System: Clean Up Prospect Park


[photo huffington post]

Who: Meg Davis, Exec Director Asia Catalyst, Prospect Heights

“We volunteered in Prospect Park today, sweeping up 600 bags of leaves and debris from the storm. 170 volunteers on our shift, including about 50 US Army soldiers. Cos you know, they don’t do enough Monday through Friday…”

More on how you can help Prospect Park

4. System: Restore the Shore

Who: Maggie Poulos, Musician, Brooklyn

“I’ve been in touch with The Shore Fellowship Church in Atlantic City. I’ve sent them supplies from Brooklyn and have reached out to many friends who also love the shore and urged them to participate. I plan to continue sending them packages this week. As well as get to the Rockaways to volunteer as soon as I can fill up my car.”

5. System: Start a Sandy “Spinoff” Relief Group

Who: Occupy Sandy Relief NYC – not a single person, but deserves a shout-out

So impressed with these guys. No matter what your politics are regarding Occupy Wall Street, this offshoot, has done an amazing, organized and enthusiastic job of rallying volunteers and delivering help to the people who need it the most.

And I love this video:

Follow Occupy Sandy Relief on Facebook. You’ll be glad you did.

6. System: Dine Out in New York Restaurants

Who: Kat Kinsman, Managing Editor of Eatocracy, Brooklyn

With the power outage in Lower Manhattan, many restaurants have suffered loss of revenue over the last few days, tipped and hourly employees have lost income and a lot of food had to be thrown out. How to help now that the power is back on? Go out and eat sillies. Eatocracy’s Kat Kinsman is doing just that and posting lots of great images on Twitter and Facebook of restaurants that are open and ready for your hungry self.


[photo: Kat Kinsman]

Kat writes on CNN: “Many of us are using the Twitter hashtag #dineoutNYC to spread the word, and encouraging fellow diners to #tipBIG (in cash, when possible) and also, on the advice of Anthony Bourdain, send a $20 back to the dishwasher, as they often don’t share in tip pooling.”

7. System: Cancel a Marathon and Keep the Relief Coming

Who: Michelle Cleary, NYC

Michelle Cleary started an amazing Facebook page called “Cancel the 2012 NYC Marathon” to rally support for canceling this year’s arguably ill-timed event. Nearly 50k followers later, you have to think her efforts made some impact. Unfortunately, though she’s tried, she can’t change the name of her page, but it has become a virtual clearinghouse of relief efforts.

P.S. Some of those displaced runners are now doing real good on Staten Island. Love it.

8. System: Donate that “Other Pile” of Clothing

Who: Stephen Lenz, Editorial Director, Manhattan

Stephen writes: “We all love to donate clothing we don’t need anymore. But you know that other pile? The one where you hoard the really expensive things you bought on sale, hoping one day they’d fit you? That brand new sweater with the tags still on it that was just too close in appearance to your other sweater? That coat you borrowed from a friend who you haven’t spoken to in 10 years? The pair of jeans that are just “a bit young” for you? That pair of chinos you keep meaning to get tapered? That pair of shoes that are too tight, that you swear one day you’ll wear them for a week and break them in? I just donated that pile to the Red Cross.”

9. System: Deliver food door-to-door to home-bound elderly

Who: Jonathan Kirk, Architect, Brooklyn

Jonathan writes: “Spent the morning delivering food to home bound elderly in Red Hook Brooklyn. All of the public housing is still without power. ConEd is still pumping water out of the basements to begin restoring power.”

If anyone in the Brooklyn area would like to sign up to deliver food to the elderly, her’s a great resource at CBE: http://www.volunteersignup.org/38CJJ

10: System: Sponsor a Specific Family in Need

Who: Sara, Registrar, Massachusetts (and my sister)

This is a really cool organization and great for folks in another state. Family to Family, according to their website, allows you to sponsor a displaced family,

Sara writes, “I have 5 down jackets (men’s, women’s, kids, a bunch of wool sweaters, men’s pants). In the wash now. I’m about to go through my daughter’s old clothes, sneakers, etc now. Kids grow so fast that many things are almost new.”

AND her brilliant SECOND SYSTEM: Gather unused airline toiletry kits and hotel shampoos that are packed with useful necessities – assemble into care packages. NICE!

11. Host a Bake Sale to Benefit the Devastated NY Aquarium

Who: I’m not entirely sure, but I just had to share this adorable photo:


Help the Aquarium here

Please share what you’ve done to help the victims of Sandy and any other suggestions. I’d love to post a “Part 2” to this post.

Go forth and Give!


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