It's been a few weeks since the terrible hurricane Sandy swept through the East coast. Even though there were plenty of warnings, many were still surprised by her sheer power. She blew through my beloved city with such force that destroyed lives and homes. She entered into the East coast damaging and devastating many then left the wreckage without remorse.
Even though I was safe at home with a roof over my head, I was totally freaked out by the strength of this storm. I'm not easily afraid of anything especially not by a hurricane, but this one was different. I felt anxious and worried throughout the night. I spent the night cooking and pacing nervously in my apartment. I kept cooking, but only to keep busy, and not because I was hungry. For once, I didn't have an appetite. I finally tired myself physically and mentally so I could fall asleep. Next morning, I felt extremely fortunate, grateful that I still have power. I knew right away I want to help.
I wasn't sure what exactly I can do, but just returning from New Orleans and hearing stories of how people came together for the relief efforts resonated with me. I thought I should do whatever I could. So, I helped clean up a flooded non-profit organization in Red Hook. I ate at a few downtown restaurants to show support since they lost a lot of businesses due to power outage. For the last two weekends, I've been cooking at one of the Occupy Sandy's kitchens. I met some amazing and dedicated people at Occupy Sandy, one of the first grassroots organizations for the hurricane relief efforts. The volunteers come from all over the world. I recall walking into one of the hubs at the Church of St Luke and St. Matthew in Clinton Hill for the first time and was impressed with how structured it was. I was immediately taken to orientation then lead to another field orientation (only if you want to volunteer to go out to the field). While that was happening, the small army of volunteers was non-stop sorting then packing boxes to load onto UPS trucks and cars that are lined up on Clinton Avenue to ship out to the devastated areas. Others were arm with their laptops to help run the relief effort and communicate with the field coordinators.
I originally signed up to canvass the devastated areas; however, without transportation and with limited ways to get to these places; especially in the first couple of weeks, I had to wait to be called. So instead of waiting, I just started to do whatever I could. I started loading food onto trucks then made my way to the food prep area downstairs to chop vegetables, peeled eggs for egg salad. Then I made my way into the kitchen and took over a shift for one of the cooks. I returned the next day and did the same. By the second weekend, I was working in the kitchen full time and pushing out hundreds of meals a day as requests come in from the Rockaways, Red Hook or wherever they need hot meals. The cooks that I worked with all had commercial kitchen experience, but they aren't professional cooks. They are economist, photographer, graphic designer, journalist who wanted to help any way they know how. We made meals with whatever ingredients we could find that came in through the generous donations. We also made staff meals for volunteers. It was powerful to see how people come and work together to achieve a common goal which was to help those in need. It was touching to see how many people show up each day to help as much as they could. I am happy to be a part of this group of volunteers.
So on this Thanksgiving, I want to give thanks to the grassroots organizations such as Occupy Sandy for leading one of the many important hurricane relief efforts. I am grateful for all that I have, and I hope to continue to help. Below is a list of places that you too could help by either volunteering or donating money or supplies. With aid from these organizations, rebuilding is possible. There is so much to be thankful for and I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!