The New Revolution: The Grassroots Efforts of Hurricane Sandy Relief (Photos)

I don’t even know where to begin.

But I know this needs to be written.

This is what I learned this week:  We are at the helm of our world community thriving or dying.  Know this.

Down at Beach 23 and Seagirt Blvd in the Rockaways, the five of us, jammed in a 1990 Mazda 323, on top of 2 generators and a pump to empty basements of water,  pulled up to a parking lot.

Sixty people came running to our car, surrounding it. “Do you have blankets? Please, we’re freezing!”

We had two left to give.

I was not expecting this. We came out to pump out basements so the people can get power back without danger of electrocution or house fires.

Four of the small band of five of us, have had our houses burn to the ground with everything in it. I know that devastation first hand and I still was shocked at what I saw happening out there.

I wish my eyes had cameras so that I could show you what is going on right now. At Beach 23 and Seagirt Blvd, a neighborhood deemed dangerous – there is no media presence.

It is true.  We are the media. You and me.

I did not see FEMA there, I did not see the Red Cross. It was us.

It is people like Cory Booker, getting emergency updates from people on Twitter and running in to help. It is the grassroots movement of Occupy Sandy who are stepping in to help organize relief, it is the performers of the House of Yes who piled into an RV with supplies, food, and people ready to help.

People like you and me ARE the new emergency response.

In the past, I’ve always volunteered. I’ve worked in the offices of the United Way, threw concerts for Toys for Tots, helped at blood drives and given blood, I’ve built two houses for Habitat for Humanity, I’ve read books to sick kids in hospitals with the VKA, I volunteered at the closest trauma hospital with Burke on 9/11….

BUT – when it came to huge natural disasters, I always thought – oh – FEMA has got this, or the Red Cross has got this. I’ll just go on about my day, go on about my life.

I have never known how very wrong I was until this week.  There is too much going on.  We cannot put it all on those organizations to fix it.  I know the Red Cross and FEMA are trying their hardest to do what they can, but they are overwhelmed.

Wherever you are reading this in the world, this is our time to pull our boots on, to roll our sleeves up and take action.

If you are in the middle of Kansas, and can’t help Hurricane Sandy victims in NYC, then please, go out in your community and help someone. I know there is someone there that needs it. Donate blood, raise awareness for your causes, help in a food kitchen, walk animals at a shelter.

This was a message to us all in the form of a hurricane – We have to rise up.

This is a call to organize on Facebook, on Twitter, on our blogs and make the changes we want to see happen. Because I’m telling you from seeing this first hand, the time of the corporations and big organizations is dying, and we need to step up and be responsible to help each other.

Isn’t that what we wanted anyway?

Don’t be afraid that you won’t know what to do. All you have to do is say, “How can I help you?” That’s it.

We didn’t know what to do.  We knocked on doors. We asked what people needed.  We did our best to make some small difference in this massive disaster.

Abby and Flambeaux – who lost their home three years ago in a fire, work continually to help others. They are true heroes and I’m lucky to call them my friends.

Me and Miss Norene cleaning up the pile of debris after Burke pumped out all water out of the first floor. Miss Norene lost almost everything.

Burke took the reigns and organized us getting out there. He had the generators and the sump pump which were priceless in this situation. He spent the day wading knee deep in waste and flood to help the people who needed him. He is a true leader.

Contessa drove three hours to bring us gas that we desperately needed to get out there and to make the generators run. She transported Burke’s generators and pumps, so that we could make this happen. This was Contessa, Burke and Flambeaux towards the end of a 15 hour day headed over a broken piece of boardwalk to help the community.

We are needed.  All of us.  Each of us has something to contribute.

How You Can Help:

If you are around the area, put your rubber boots on, grab some work gloves and head down there.  There are volunteer coordination spots listed at Occupy Sandy.  You can also just go down there and knock on doors.  That’s what we did and it was the most effective for us.  Use Twitter and Facebook to find ride shares in this gas crisis and team up with friends to make a difference.

There was also a hurricane registry set up HERE, so that you can help buy the supplies for the relief efforts as all of us continue to rebuild.

Blankets are needed.  The temperatures are dropping and hurricane hit areas don’t have heat.  Here is a good list of drop off places to bring supplies to in your neighborhood.   If you live in the Williamsburg/Greenpoint area of Brooklyn, please bring blankets to:  Cup at 79 Norman Avenue or Beacon’s Closet at 88 N. 11th Street anytime this week.  I will be picking up blankets from these locations Saturday night to bring into the Rockaways on Sunday morning.

You can help animals displaced by the storm.  A great place to start is Adopt NY.  You can foster an animal, or donate money to the cause.

No matter where you live:  Roll up your sleeves and donate blood.  We are in an emergency crisis situation for donors.  The New York Blood Center is a good place to start.  I was proud to have volunteered with them on Saturday alongside the amazing Penny Red.  When she learned she couldn’t donate blood because of country restrictions, she didn’t just walk out the door, but said, “What else can I do to help?”

This is a new generation, a new world, we need to take that call to action.


Let’s stand in a world community together.   “Sticks in a bundle cannot be broken.” – African Proverb

See you out there.

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