Volunteer Efforts Begin to Trickle in Five Days After Hurricane Sandy

By Carla Zanoni on November 4, 2012 10:42am 

NEW YORK — Volunteer efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy reached a critical mass Saturday as emergency response teams finally made their way the hardest hit areas across the five boroughs, residents said.

After days of complaints that federal agencies and the American Red Cross had not responded quickly enough to areas slammed by Hurricane Sandy, residents said the emergency agency finally responded in full force Friday night, five days after the storm hit.

“Just watched convoy of #RedCross relief vehicles roll out to deliver hope & warm dinners to #StatenIsland. Beautiful sight,” tweeted @DaphneHart just after 4 p.m. Saturday.

The Red Cross had come under fire from Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, who called the agency’s absence in the borough an “absolute disgrace” on Friday.

“The Red Cross showed up at 6:30 p.m. FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE SANDY SHOWED HER UGLY FACE,” wrote Tamra Walker on Facebook early Saturday morning.

The agency did not immediately respond to questions about its response in the outer boroughs, but began posting updates on its Emergency Response Vehicle locations Saturday.

A branch of the Occupy Wall Street movement called Occupy Sandy Relief NYC continued its relief efforts throughout Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens, bringing residents everything from cleaning supplies to warm food.

Members of the group shuttled donated goods on bike and in vans and took to Facebook and Twitter to update followers on what items were most needed.

In Upper Manhattan, where damage from Hurricane Sandy was largely relegated to hundreds of downed trees in neighborhood parks, volunteers came out in droves on Saturday, hoping to lend a hand and donate food, clothing and toiletries.

The local shelter at George Washington High School in Washington Heights swelled from 18 people midweek to anywhere between 200 and 600 people Friday, officials said.

Donations at the site became so great that officials placed a sign on their door asking residents to donate MetroCards instead of goods, because the shelter was overloaded.

In Inwood, the Knights of Columbus and the Good Shepherd Men's Club accepted donations from hundreds of residents at the Inwood Farmer’s Market Saturday throughout the morning. 

The group filled a truck and three SUVs with clothing, toiletries, food and other items and planned to bring the items to Queens for disaster relief efforts throughout the boroughs.

"I can't open my apartment to everyone," said Caroline Antillana, 37, a Washington Heights resident who brought three bags of towels, sweaters and dry food items to the drop off point. "But this is at least a little something I can do for now."

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