Stranded in my cable-free Williamsburg apartment this past week, it was impossible to escape the endless, heart-wrenching news reports on the nearby victims of Hurricane Sandy--and just as impossible to just sit there doing nothing.
So I did what I deemed most feasible at the time--I spent an afternoon pulling items out of my closet and into a massive garbage bag labeled "donation." What hurricane survivor wouldn't need my jeans and tees and whatever else I had thrown in there after losing practically everything? Well as it turns out--Hurricane Sandy survivors wouldn't. It seems I wasn't the only one taking the Cher Horowitz-approach to helping.
Since the hurricane hit, New York and New Jersey's hardest hit neighborhoods have been inundated with compassion from those more fortunate in weathering the storm. The donation of choice? Gently worn clothes straight from their wardrobes. But while their hearts were in the right place, their gifts ended up amounting to an out-of-hand problem unto itself. Inwood resident Mary Kate Burke wrote a first-hand account of the clothing donation overflow she witnessed while volunteering in Far Rockaway this weekend:
"The National Guard (at least where we were) is only manning food and water donations. Everything else is essentially being dumped out back on the ground. Local residents are sifting through garbage bags and grabbing the few diapers and wipes that are there. There is no organization...Basically everything went except half a truck of clothes."
Relief effort organizers have begun echoing her sentiments, asking on their websites and Twitter that people save the Fall cleaning for a different day (in so many words).
Prominent relief coalition Occupy Sandy, an online touch point for volunteers in all areas since the superstorm, is now requesting donations of "urgent supplies" including (along with food and diapers) boots, winter wear, jackets, hats, and gloves--followed by an all-caps announcement that victims "NO LONGER NEED ANY GENERAL CLOTHING SUPPLIES." Cleverly, OS has even set up a wedding registry on Amazon with purchased items like blankets and generators going directly to the cause. Also on the quest for coats is New York Cares, holding its annual coat drive earlier than usual to help aid those most devastated by Sandy. The charity aims to collect 50,000 coats this week alone for immediate distribution (click here to find out more about how you can help New York Cares). And South Brooklyn's Red Hook Initiative, the organization spearheading relief efforts in Red Hook, doesn't need anymore clothes donations. The organization tweeted this morning "ATTN: Supplies needed at South Brooklyn HS 173 Conover Street. EVERYTHING but NO clothes." A representative of RHI reached out to us, further explaining, "Right now clothing is not needed. People's homes are ok, they are without power. We have been collecting blankets. Thanks."
Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg, himself, requested that donations be of the monetary variety in lieu of cloth. Via The New York Times: "What would be the most helpful is donations to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York, and then we’ll be able to use that money to help people get back on their feet."
So (aside from money) what can you donate? Clothing isn't totally out of the question: As per Occupy Sandy, warm jackets, scarves, hats, and boots are especially needed (particularly with that nasty Nor'easter looming somewhere in the 5-day forecast). New socks and underwear are a priority as well, along with necessities like baby diapers, wipes, and tampons. Also still in need? Flashlights, blankets, batteries, and lest we forget, food! FEMA is also looking for blood donors.
Want to stay up-to-date on the latest of the North East's post-Sandy needs and donate your time as well? Follow these guys--we'd highly recommend it.
• @TribecaCitizen - Tribeca
• @RHookInitiative - Red Hook
• @OccupySandy - NYC
• @SINYCLiving - Staten Island
• @GoLES - Lower East Side
• @FEMARegion2 - FEMA Region covering New York and New Jersey
• @GodsLoveNYC - God's Love We Deliver, an NYC-based non-profit
• @SIrecovers - Staten Island recovery account
• @NYCService - NYC
• Bergdorf Goodman's Twitter account has a comprehensive list of NYC-based organizations
• Huffington Post's "How to Help" list
• Those near the Rockaways can find information here
• Staten Island is keeping up this aid map using crowdsourcing.