This past weekend, after writing "12 Ways to Help Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts" (updated 11/5--don't miss it!), I was stuck between a rock and a hard place trying to find a Hurricane Sandy volunteer opportunity in my neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn. All nearby volunteering opps were full. I contemplated giving blood, even donating money, but I wanted to give my time. Then an opportunity presented itself, with Occupy Sandy.
At Times, Unprecedented Generosity Meant Maximum CapacityPark Slopers don't take calls for donations lightly. That's the sentiment around town when it comes to giving back, as expressed by a volunteer at the John Jay High School Hurricane Evacuation Center. On Tuesday, the day after the storm, I passed the high school and saw a sign that said they were accepting clothing donations. When I came back less than an hour later with a bag full of clothing, they had already reached their max. (They accepted it anyway.) They had more than enough volunteers, too. Same went for Congregation Beth Elohim, which had more than enough people sign up for volunteering slots over the weekend.
The more the merrier, right? Not quite. When you get turned away at the door, like my roommate did, you're left with able bodies and a lack of opportunity. Enter Occupy Sandy. The grassroots volunteering is creating opportunities on the spot. Here's my experience:
I was itching to volunteer my time. As I wrote previously, I was very lucky to emerge from Hurricane Sandy with only a few commuting inconveniences. Sure, I donated some clothes and canned goods, but it still didn't feel like enough.
Occupy Sandy's Clever Pop-Up Donation SiteThe opportunity with Occupy Sandy came about not from all of my research online but from simply walking by the pop-up donation site, located outside of Park Slope's Food Coop, on Sunday. As luck would have it they needed volunteers that day and so I simply came back at a later time. Though not originally affiliated with the Food Coop, they generously donated supplies to the effort and they have since started to allow members to get shift-credit for participating.
My volunteer opportunity was spur of the moment, but to get involved, yours doesn't have to be. Follow their tweets @OccupySandy for frequent, up-to-date "on the ground updates."
And by "they," I refer to the coalition that makes of the movement, which is comprises of members from Occupy Wall Street, 350.org, recovers.org, and interoccupy.net. There are also the volunteers--like yours truly--who are affiliated with none of them--you can just call us "the randoms" or "the originals". And visit the InterOccupy.net website, where there are numerous opportunities listed to volunteer your time or drop off donations.
After only a few busy minutes volunteering, working with people I've never met to help people I probably will never meet, I felt happy and content, and like I was a part of something greater.
We collected everything from outerwear and blankets to feminine hygiene products, shaving cream, and, of course, non-perishables canned goods. Though many donations came directly from Food Coop members who finished their shopping, neighborhood residents, and passerby, including actress Maggie Gyllenhaal--sorry, had to mention the ol' celebrity--stopped by to donate.Volunteer drivers transported donations to the distribution center in Sunset Park, where goods were then sorted and distributed to areas hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy.
In one day, one little collection table that could, delivered roughly 25 carloads of food and supplies to distribution hubs all over the city.