Alex and I got in the car around 9:30 and drove to the Red Hook Initiative, which has been using a school as a donation center head quarters. There we found a gym full of donated supplies and a basement full of even more. We spent around 2 and a half hours organizing the supplies into five piles for places in need: Coney Island, the Rockaways, Breezy Point, Gowanus and Staten Island. When we first arrived there were about 20 other people there just like us. They'd showed up and were reading to work. Around noon there were starting to be too many volunteers and people were trying to figure out where to go. Since we had a car with gas, and don't rely on it for every day transportation, we really wanted to help deliver supplies. It was decided that our car would be filled with all sorts of pet supplies for an animal shelter that had lost everything in Freeport Long Island.
With our car loaded up we passed line after line of people and cars waiting for gas and saw things like boats on the side of the belt parkway, and a trailer that had somehow smashed into a building. But there was electricity (mostly). When we arrived at the shelter we saw the damage that four feet of flooding can do. Luckily all of the animals survived and were currently in foster homes, but the shelter itself was in ruins. After unloading the car, we spent a few hours trying to help out in any way that we could- scrubbing and bleaching the cat run and helping knock down and bag up damaged dry wall. I saw a woman's small business destroyed on top of the worry and concern for finding more foster locations for the displaced shelter animals. It was heartbreaking.
Bobbi, of Bobbi and the Strays was strong and sweet and thankful, but Alex and I couldn't shake the feeling that we'd barely made a dent that day. We realized that it's basically going to take hundreds of people for hundreds of days doing the same little tasks that we did over and over. Sorting and delivering supplies, and cleaning up a big, big mess. Even so, I do believe it is the little things that make the difference, even though it might not feel like it in the moment. It's easy to think, "this is such a big mess, that there's nothing I could do that would help". But actually it's the complete opposite. I was amazing by how quickly we could sort supplies and load up cars with tons of people. If everyone carries one bag, the job get's done faster leaving less people exhausted at the end of the day. It's that simple.
It's starting to become more and more clear that people in need are relying on grassroots movements more than anything else. The Red Cross and FEMA are not enough. So for readers of my blog who do not live in the area and want to do something to help, please consider donating to a smaller grassroots organization instead of giving to the Red Cross. I think your money will be directly put to use faster. And if you're in NYC and haven't volunteered yet (I know it can seem daunting) just show up at the smaller places, and help strangers out. That's really all you need to do.
Here are a few really easy ways to find places to volunteer no registration necessary, just show up.
And here are links to some more grassroots stories with organizations you can give to:
- Reading about Jenna and Sharon's experiences really moved me- please check them out.
- And Ingrid's post is really informative too.
- I am particularly concerned about the Ali Forney Center and think that I will try and donate some money there.
There are so many ways to help out. If I learned anything today, it's that small help is still help. Please, do what you can, New York needs love from around the world more than ever.