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Screw the Red Tape, Let’s be the Glue.

Posted on by Michelle

Hello Friends,

I just got home from visiting Brooklyn shelters, drop off points and clean up sites in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Please allow me about 30 seconds to stand on a soap box because I have things I need to share with you.

When this storm hit, I think we were all in a bit of denial of how much damage it would actually cause. For one thing, everyone was rolling their eyes about all of last year’s hype of a hurricane..”surely it’s just another one of those situations. I mean, this is New York City! What could happen that we couldn’t handle?”

Fast forward to post- Sandy and being glued to the television for 48 hours, seeing my first rollercoaster in the ocean, learning of homes destroyed just miles from where I live… my next thought was was..”this is horrible, but I’m so grateful we have people responding to this and I’ll be sure to drop off some supplies at a local shelter to help out”.

I started looking on line to see what volunteer opportunities are being coordinated. I discovered a website sponsored by the city, which which simply required me to type in my email so I could officially be registered. I did so, and quickly received a general message of ‘thanks for signing up, we have been overwhelmed with volunteer help and we’ll let you know when an opportunity pops up”. “Great!” I thought to myself , “There’s an overwhelming amount of support. Now I can rest easy at night and they’ll just let me know when they need me”.

Later that night, I was watching a woman on TV in Rockaway crying about no one being there to help her and her twin babies. She had no food, power or water. There were no FEMA trucks, no American Red Cross. I thought to myself, “but it’s been a couple days since the storm, and the city tells me that there’s an overwhelming amount of volunteers offering support”. Huh?!?

Something wasn’t matching up right for me, so I decided to stop by some shelters to see for myself. Here’s the most common line I’ve heard, “we’re only accepting people who can do 4-8 hour shifts” and “ we have enough supplies, we don’t need that, thanks”. Followed by the disappointed volunteer saying, ‘oh…. okay…. so…I guess I’ll go home.” And then, these would-be volunteers, turned around with the supplies they brought with them, to go back home all saying the same thing – “Clearly everything’s under control, they don’t really need my help”. Once again, an implication that enough is being done (unless you can offer more than you can), we don’t need you.
My frustration and confusion was at its peak. I started googling like a madwoman until I came across… http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/

Regardless of where you stand politically or what you think Occupy is all about, I think it important that you have a look to see what they’ve been able to accomplish. Occupy is not turning away anyone.  They’re putting people right to work, they’re very organized, they’re constantly updating their website with supplies needed. These people have managed to figure out a way to quickly mobilize thousands of volunteers to get supplies and help to the hardest hit area offering hot meals, positive energy, and aren’t afraid to get down and dirty.

Social Media has changed everything. Everyday people are becoming community organizers, reporters, and photographers… I learned of grassroots efforts lead by people like my friend of a friend, Sean James Aiken, a Rockaway native, who decided to mobilize people and supplies at Berry Park, a bar based in Williamsburg, where loads of batteries, clothes, garbage bags, socks were being pulled together and brought out to those hardest hit places like Breezy Point.

The moral of the story is that the real power here, is in people coming together. We do not have the luxury of time to wait for big organizations and government to get organized enough to swoop down and save everyone. I have no doubt that everyone is working hard to make help possible, but right now there are elderly people stuck in 23rd story buildings in Brighton Beach who have been without power and food and heat and water for days. They do not have the time to wait for the benefit concerts’ money to roll in. They need a sandwich and they need flushable toilets. I can tell you from my own eyes and ears, standing on line to help at Red Hook Initiative, that there are calls coming in from elderly who need of help with their oxygen tanks at home that are not working.  This is literally an issue of life and death.

Everyone’s our neighbor. They need us to visit them right now. We need to be the ones helping one another. And this is already happening, but more helping hands are needed.

After visiting Red Hook, I can tell you that I didn’t see one FEMA truck or American Red Cross truck. I’m not implying that they’re not doing their job, I’m just saying, I didn’t see them. I did, however see lots of local folks come in with a desire to help and thanks to the efforts of Red Hook Initiative and Occupy – strangers are joining together and helping clean out people’s badly damaged homes.

What can we do?

Right now, there are not enough cleaning supplies (mops, shovels,bleach, garbage bags, gloves). There are not enough people wearing masks to protect themselves from the hazardous mold that is already growing quickly. There is a serious gas shortage, so if you have a car – think ahead, go to a drop off supply like in Bay Ridge – let them tell you what is most needed and then go. They may have you transport volunteers to the hardest hit areas, which is most needed.

Here are some ways to keep updated on the needs of different communities.
If you can get yourself down there now, do it! These people need our help and are so appreciative of whatever you can offer.

The following will not turn you away and not ask how long you can commit; they just need your help right now.

This isn’t a blame game, it’s just how things are right now. Screw the red tape, let’s be the glue.

Occupy Sandy – http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/
(Sign up to receive their newsletter updates)

Congregation Beth Elohim-  is  doing a wonderful job of mobilizing in Brooklyn.  Follow them at https://www.facebook.com/cbebk

*Shout out to Coucilman, Brad Lander who is out and about day and night coordinating efforts to help*

For a complete listing of drop off points, visit:


* If you decide to drive out to Rockaway – before you go, stop by a donation drop off point and pick up supplies to go with you.

A volunteer coordinator in Rockaway Beach, Jean Dupont informed me she’s overwhelmed with supplies, and they’ve opened up a couple new sites in addition to St. Francis. If you’d like to get out there to the Rockaway, go to Firehouse on 59th street
across from the train station. If you need to reach Jean, call 9179755623.

Directions to Rockaway

From Brooklyn & Staten Island

Take Belt Parkway to Flatbush Ave South (Exit 11S), Go over Marine Parkway Bridge, (Pay toll), bear left
Stay on Main Road to 129 St, Turn Right on 129 St, proceed 3 blocks to Church
we drove on the LIE no traffic then got off the rockaway exit and took wood haven Blvd. the whole way there

Stepping down from the soapbox,

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