130 members of the Friends Seminary community (with help from many other members who cooked amazing amounts of food and provided a massive quantity of supplies) went to Staten Island today to help in the disaster relief efforts in Midland Beach and New Dorp Beach.
We chose this particular community because Friends is partnering with PS 52 – an Elementary School which is displaced from their building and lost their library – and these areas are their community.
We were working with two organizations that have been on the ground since early on in the relief effort. A local catering company, Ariana’s Catering, has turned a small party hall into a collection center, food distribution center and all around comfort zone.
A motorcycle club, The Hallowed Sons, came in the first day and have never left. They are a collection center, they make food on site and feed both residents and volunteers, and they coordinate volunteers to help residents remove debris and their destroyed possessions from their homes.
I saw some FEMA and some National Guard presence but no Red Cross in the area I was in. My belief is that without Ariana’s and The Hallowed Sons and other local groups, this disaster zone would be in a state of total collapse.
I saw too many people break down in tears today and be much too grateful for the little help we could provide.
I heard people whose homes were destroyed say: “we could use the help but my neighbor needs it more than I do.”
I saw way too much black mold, too many destroyed homes, too many lives placed on the street, waiting for sanitation to come and cart away the container that held a child’s first tooth, the album that had the only pictures of long gone parents, the sofa bought with that first promotion.
I do have to give a shout out to the police, the fire department and especially the New York City Sanitation Department. Everyone I spoke to talked about how sanitation was always there, working through horrendous strain and removing everything on the street from moldy boxes to destroyed ranges, to beds and music cabinets.
To put this in perspective, this is one small community in New York City. There are many, way too many, more in Brooklyn, Queens, and in parts of Manhattan, and that is before I even mention Long Island or the Jersey Shore, Hoboken, and on and on. This clean up and repair is not going to be a matter of weeks or even months, but of years. My home needs all the help it can get.
I read something from a New Orleans blogger today and strongly recommend reading it. It is worth your while.