Voices of Hurricane Sandy Volunteers
As power is restored to our homes and community and many of our lives begin to return to a sense of normalcy, our hearts go out to all those who have suffered losses from Hurricane Sandy. Despite the difficulties and challenges that we faced during this ordeal, members of our JCP community found the time and energy to help others in dire situations, taking time away from family and personal needs to look after others in greater need. These selfless acts of kindness and caring reflect the values that our JCP community is built upon, and we should all take note of how members of our community responded to this crisis. Several moving stories grew out of these critical visits, and below are a few samples.
This building was my “first” building earlier in the week – and the one I and my “search buddy” (THANKS DEAN!), assigned the high floors (26-39) had to ascend TWICE, as we needed to replenish our supply. I don’t know if I mentioned the young, single dad taking care of his wheelchair bound son…we were able to give them a number of supplies, and after I learned they had no real light source, I handed over my personal lantern (saying to the man that the lantern could be separated into separate light sources to have one in each room as needed). He was very happy to have that lantern. Dean eventually gave up his personal flashlight to another resident on the next floor, and we laughed as we searched the pitch black hallways that we’d end up naked by the end of the day if we stayed on that track! There was SO much need!
There were many residents that first night that touched my heart SO much, that they instantly felt like my family. So the assignment today, after the power went back up, was especially heart-felt to me. As the last of the groups were finishing up and meeting us back in the lobby, Zalman and I were discussing the events of the week. A man exited the elevator, heading outside — he was pushing a young boy in a wheelchair — the man stopped, looked at me with some recognition in his eyes and said, “You helped me, I had a beard before, so you may not recognize me, but…my son…” Ah…”The Lantern!”…”Yes”…I looked down as his son was reaching out with his frail right hand — I knelt down to give him the biggest, gentlest hug…then I totally lost it. The man reiterated, “THANK YOU” …and took his son outside. Zalman looked at me, “Oh wow, I will NEVER, for as long as I live, forget that image of that man meeting with you.” That, to me, marked the end of this incredible, invaluable “Post World Series Event” journey. I will never EVER forget that image either. With that, the brand new volunteers, witnessing the exchange, choked up as well. “This is why we’re here.”
Jenny Hansen, Volunteer
This storm taught us that if you give people a little direction about how to help, you will be astounded by the response. With a few emails, Facebook requests and phone calls, our neighbors exceeded all expectations with their donations. At one drop off point, a crowd of people waiting in line cheered when our car pulled up with supplies.
Kelly and Jeff Lerner, Volunteers
We started up the stairwell in a building on East Broadway with our flashlights in the dark, and came across an older woman in her seventies stranded in the pitch black stairwell with a huge heavy bag she was attempting to carry up to the ninth floor. We helped her to her apartment, and gave her water and a new flashlight. She was so grateful that she kept trying to give US food.
Multiple elderly individuals were in wheelchairs on the upper floors of buildings, with no functioning elevators. Two of them had aides with them; however, one didn’t and was just eating a bowl of cereal with water in bed, waiting for people to bring him food.
One woman was so happy to have the food and water that we brought her, but wanted to know how much she needed to pay us. We had to assure her it was free.
Chelsey Loshak, Volunteer
Hi, this is Sela, Maddy, and Jack. We just wanted to tell you about our experience while helping out the people in Independence Plaza. We had low expectations entering this journey, but they were far disproved. We started off collecting donations, and as the first donation came, so did so many others. We are so abundantly happy for the donations that people have given us. After we collected the donations, Madison’s parents and Chris of the 27th floor rolled the food, water, and flashlights etc. to the Independence Plaza. All of us ran to the Independence Plaza to talk to the building manager, who was very grateful that everyone in the building gave such generous donations. We then separated the food into individual packages and climbed up the stairs, TWICE, to knock on the doors of tenants who were elderly or needed help. We encountered the stench of garbage, and saw it as well. The people were burning incense to cover it up. When we started to knock on the doors of the residents, and saw their faces, we really knew that the feeling of giving was greater than the feeling of receiving. Everyone was so happy, and we felt like it was backwards Halloween. Thank you for helping us with this experience. We couldn’t–and we mean it–have done it without you.
Madison, 12 yrs old; Sela, 12 yrs old; Jack, 12 yrs old, Volunteers
New York City LAB middle school
(Madison’s letter to her neighbors, asking for donations)
Hi! My name is Madison Pappas & I live in the Solaire in apartment 7E. I’ve been in the community since ‘03. After Hurricane Sandy, all the power in Lower Manhattan went out. Tribeca is still in the dark, and one of my best friend’s told me that her forty-story building is in need of water, food, and love. The building is on Harrison & Greenwich. Unfortunately, there are a lot of elderly people in that building who cannot climb down forty flights of stairs. My other best friend, Sela Adegbile, and I decided we wanted to help as much as we can.
We will have a table in the lobby from 2pm on and will be taking donations of food, water, batteries and spare change (so we can purchase more supplies) to deliver to the building. We were fortunate to not have lost power and have opened our homes to our friends for showers, hot meals, etc. I consider myself a lucky girl and want to share what we have with those who are still in the dark and hungry.
I would implore as many of you as possible who live in the TriState area, and in particular in Manhattan where I live, to take the initiative and get into your cars (or carpool as we did today, as I don’t have a car), and fill the trunk up with food, water, hot drinks and various supplies and get it out to the poorer neighborhoods. It makes a vast difference and actually goes a long way in showing these communities that people from the outside do actually care. After all, we are all in it together. Community equals civilization and without the former we lack the latter. We can make a material difference here: We are lucky in this case that we do not need to use international or national organizations such as the Red Cross because we ARE on the ground. We are not sending checks to Haiti or Africa here; it is a local story. The exciting thing is that we can make a difference just by acting, as I saw this with my own two eyes today, as we gave out hundreds of cups of tea and coffee and many supplies such as blankets and food stuffs. It made a vast difference. I saw the looks of gratitude in the recipient’s eyes as we gave them beverages and food. They felt connected again, in both body and spirit. What was worrying, however, was that a significant percentage of people whom we met in the housing projects on Coney Island said we were the first people to come from the outside to offer assistance.
Let us aim to create a surplus of supplies for these people. Please let me know if you need coordinates for where to go in Coney Island and Brooklyn, as Myers and Jennifer Mermel did an outstanding job in driving us all to the correct neighborhoods to deliver the supplies. We are going tomorrow and the next day, and will go for as long as it takes.
George Lewis, Volunteer
Brought three car loads of stuff to Staten island this morning and ran… amazing energy of New Yorkers helping.
Leonard Ellis, Volunteer
I helped an artist who lives on the 9th floor in a building on West Street in the West Village. Her apartment has been without heat for days. We brought her water, cereal, canned vegetables and fresh fruit. Her daughter was with her and both were so grateful that they kissed each of the volunteers who brought them supplies.
Caren Goldberg, Volunteer
The quiet gratitude of those who accepted water, and mentioned what else they might need… One elderly man said, with a smile, “We’re O.K. We’ve been through this before.”
Allison Schoen, Volunteer
We’re still trying to digest everything that happened over the last week. The overall “Sandy” experience ran the full spectrum of emotions for us.
In terms of the volunteering effort, I feel really fortunate that Davis, Liv, Stacey, and I were able to help. Over 4 days, Davis and Liv participated at every turn. They were all stars. The only complaint I heard from them was when we weren’t giving them the opportunity to contribute as much as the adult volunteers. Davis didn’t think I was giving him enough of a challenge at times. We all witnessed the rawness of the post-hurricane impact on those who were most vulnerable—the elderly, disabled, and those who had no one to turn to. Over the first couple of days, we helped a daughter call 911 for her 79-year old mother who had run out of oxygen (in her oxygen tank). Davis, Liv and I climbed 33 floors in a pitch-dark stairwell to delivery groceries and water to a woman who was looking after her 91-year old mother. We personally knocked on more than 100 doors to check on people and deliver water and food. We covered a lot of ground—Southbridge Towers, Independence Plaza, and Village View among them. I was hoping to give Davis and Liv an experience where they could understand what giving back really means in the most tangible way.
The reaction from everyone we helped let us know that we accomplished something—the tearful thank you’s, the hugs, and the relief on people’s faces when they realized that they weren’t alone in this. Among the many other amazing things we saw was the grass-roots efforts of the community coming together to help out—JCP, Chabad of Tribeca, JCorps, and Julie Menin. They were the conductors, and we were the orchestra.
Stan Sandberg, Davis and Liv Sandberg, Volunteers
Manhattan turned into two very different worlds following Sandy. On the Upper West Side, we were blessed with very little impact on our daily lives. While it was made tragically clear with constant images on the news of the devastation in New Jersey and Staten Island, people in our own backyard were living without power, heat or even the ability to flush a toilet. I personally was unaware of how dramatically different the conditions were on the island. Thank you for all the work you have done, and thanks for the opportunity to help and gain some perspective.
Preston Mesick, Volunteer from Citigroup
I wanted to share a lovely call I just received from a gentleman who was calling to thank JCP for coming to check in on his disabled mother on Friday evening. He said that JCP volunteers were the first ones who came up 30 floors to her apartment with batteries, water, and snacks. He said that she was not checked on again until days later, and that he is incredibly appreciative of the work of our volunteers. He said he had never heard of JCP before, and that he was profusely thankful what we are doing for the community.
JCP Welcome Desk, Rachel Smith