Monday, November 12, 2012

volunteering in red hook

though life is pretty much back to normal for many new yorkers, there is still a huge number of people without power, picking up the pieces from sandy. i believe it is the duty of anyone local who is able to help, to do so in whatever way they can... this didn't happen in haiti, or japan... it happened in our backyard. there is no excuse. so this weekend a group of friends and i went out to red hook to volunteer. while the focus has been on far rockaway, staten island, coney island, breezy point, etc (with good reason), red hook seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. i was inspired by my friend philippe, who rode his bike from greenpoint on a whim last week and helped out for a day...

the neighborhood is largely without power. we took a cab from downtown brooklyn and were greeted by street after street of closed storefronts, piles of debris, and a general air of abandonment. after a short orientation, we were given maps and forms and sent door to door to assess needs of those still left, and record any other environmental concerns. many buildings were completely empty, inhabitants long gone... either flooded, or forced out by the cold weather/no electricity combination. in one building, only a lone elderly woman remained, refusing to leave her apartment behind. when she opened her front door, the blast that rushed to greet us was at least 20 degrees colder than that of the air outside... the (very old) building had been without electricity for two weeks.

we found another woman who was stuck, immobile, in her home, in need of food and water... we were able to bring her both, and then some. the community has set up a make-shift market inside one of the larger neighborhood churches. each pew a supermarket aisle, goods stacked, ready for pick up. there were toiletries, blankets, water, first aid items, batteries... we were allowed to "shop" with a volunteer for items. food trucks were lined up outside, serving free meals... we were able to get a few meals to go for delivery. it really was amazing the way the community had come together to help each other. we didn't see any identifiable red cross the entire day... there were a couple of police officers and military at the church, but it seems the neighborhood (largely poor) has been left to it's own devices. there were one or two wealthy condos that had never lost power (go figure!)... one right across from projects where power has still not been restored.

if you haven't yet volunteered and are looking for somewhere to help out, check out the red hook initiative, 3rd floor above the fairway, 480 van brunt street... the neighborhood really needs volunteers to help rebuild.

i am so thankful that i have what i have... that i am where i am... that i was able to help this weekend... and that i have such amazing friends who joined me. i hope there continues to be a steady stream of volunteers wherever they are needed, and that affected areas get back on their feet soon.