KIRF Field Report: Hurricane Sandy Relief in New York City

shelters in Brooklyn

On Friday, December 7th, the founder of KIRF  , Mark Kirwin and Steve Doll, a member of the Rotary Club of Ventura, traveled to New York city to help the ongoing Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.  After landing at JFK, they met up with KIRF board member Patrick Rea, a resident of New York. Patrick had been doing on-the-ground assessments of post-Hurricane Sandy relief needs and was ready to help.

That Friday night we visited several shelters in Brooklyn and discovered that they were no longer providing aid to Hurricane Sandy victims. The people at the shelters suggested that we travel to the hardest hit areas: Staten Island, the Rockaways, and Coney Island–areas where there was still a lot of need. According to the New York Times, most of the flooding and deaths from Hurricane Sandy occurred in these areas. Of the people who died from Hurricane Sandy in New York City, 34 of the 43 deaths were elderly residents of Staten Island.

Sign that says Occupy Sandy

On Saturday morning, we met with local volunteer relief workers from the area’s of Occupy Sandy headquarters. Occupy Sandy is a New York City-based disaster relief group of local citizens, humanitarians and tech-savvy volunteers that have been quick to deliver relief supplies directly to Hurricane Sandy victims. When we arrived we saw a logistically well-organized relief effort being run by an Occupy Sandy volunteer group headed by a relief worker named Kelly. From what we understood, the Occupy Sandy group had volunteers working in different neighborhoods of the region’s storm ravaged areas. These volunteers worked with local resident councils who advised them on their most pressing needs. The councils then distributes the provided aid to their residents who made the requests. Many thanks to the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew for their incredible kindness in offering the Occupy Sandy groups a safe and secure place from which to direct their volunteer disaster relief.

Mark behind a bunch of Carts with disaster relief supplies in them.

We purchased relief supplies that were requested by the resident councils of two areas devastated by extensive flooding: the low-income housing complex of Ocean Towers on Coney Island and the Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn. After purchasing relief supplies for the Ocean Towers complex, we delivered them directly to their resident council. The supplies they requested included baby food, diapers, wipes, toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, feminine sanitary products, cleaning supplies such as mops, construction gloves, sponges, garbage cans, construction garbage bags, bleach (for cleaning the mold from the water surge); and school supplies such as pencils, crayons and lined paper. We also purchased non-perishable food items that were requested such as canned soups, tuna fish, and stews. We then purchased and delivered similar items requested by the resident council of the flood damaged Red Hook neighborhood with the assistance of Occupy Sandy relief workers.

There are piles of ruined furniture and garbage from cleaning out water-damaged homes lining the streets in the coastal neighborhoods we visited.

It still amazes me as to how much aid is still needed even after five weeks of a major disaster. Especially for low income families with children and the elderly, in a major American city like New York.

 

Picture of Mark, Kelly, Lev and volunteers that helped with the disaster relief for the people of Occupy Sandy. The manager of Brooklyn path mark grocery store gave us a discount when we purchased supplies.

A special thanks goes out to the Rotary Club of Ventura who partnered with KIRF to provide the funds to purchase aid for this disaster relief effort. We also would like to thank the manager of the Brooklyn Path Mark grocery store who gave us a discount on relief items we purchased. Our relief effort would not of been possible without the tireless efforts of the people of Occupy Sandy, including Kelly, Lev and the rest of the volunteers. These people made the most efficient distribution of aid possible from the private sector. Five weeks after the disaster, they continue to get aid to families still suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Last but not least, I thank Steve and Patrick for volunteering their time and joining me in this effort.

 

Peace,

Mark Kirwin
Founder of KIRF (KIRFaid.org)