After the skies clear and the water recedes, the human response to a disaster on the order of Hurricane Sandy is to give back. Here are five great ways to do so in New York City right now. But most of the organizations listed below operate year-round: their missions are awesome, and the need is always great. By Jessica Allen.
New York Cares maintains an extensive database of volunteering projects in and around the city every day of the week, every day of the year. Projects having to do with the hurricane, such as cleaning up a park on Staten Island, are posted on a rolling basis. (Note that you’ll need to attend a quick orientation session before signing up or volunteering.) The annual New York Cares Coat Drive begins next week—this year, more than ever, it’s important to donate any warm jackets you might not want.
Affiliated with Occupy Wall Street and like-minded groups, Occupy Sandy has organized a massive relief effort to distribute volunteers and goods to areas most devastated by the storm. The website lists volunteer opportunities in New York and New Jersey, with specific information about where to go, what to bring, and how to get there. There’s also a link to a Sandy NJ Wedding Registry, where you can purchase items on Amazon, such as latex gloves and cases of bleach, for those in need.
Ordinarily devoted to empowering young people, the Red Hook Initiative transformed itself in the hours following the hurricane into relief headquarters for people affected in and around Red Hook, Brooklyn. You can volunteer, help cook hot meals, or donate. The center is serving food, offering medical check-ups and legal advice, and acting as a drop-off/pick-up point for things like batteries, blankets, and canned goods. Volunteers are also going into nearby residences still without power or heat to check on inhabitants and serve meals.
Serving more than 20 million people in New York City, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and New Jersey, the New York Blood Center (NYBC) constantly needs a fresh supply of blood in order to meet the needs of local hospitals and other facilities. (Blood has a short shelf life: red blood cells last for about 42 days, while platelets are only good for about five days.) As a bonus, all donors receive free mini-medical exams, including information about their blood pressure. Through the website, you can sign up to donate or organize a blood drive in your neighborhood.
On Wednesday, November 7, Housing Works will host its Fashion for Action event, with 20 percent of ticket sales going to hurricane relief; the remaining money goes to fund its mission of helping people with HIV and AIDS, particularly the homeless, so, really, shopping at the thrift stores run by this organization around town is win-win. The food and restaurant website Eater regularly updates a map of bars and restaurants in New York City that are holding fundraisers or doing some kind of relief effort. On Thursday, November 8, Dine Out Williamsburg’s participating bars and restaurants will donate a portion of their proceeds to the Red Cross. But even if a locally owned store or restaurant isn’t raising money for a charity, choosing to spend your cash there still helps the community at large by ensuring that the business stays open, the employees get paid, and the tax dollars come in.