'Occupy Sandy' Clear on Goal: To Provide Direct Aid to Storm Victims

By Janet Upadhye on November 13, 2012 9:30am 

CLINTON HILL — "Occupy" has moved from Wall Street to the donation bin.

The volunteer group Occupy Sandy has amassed a mountain of "wedding gifts" via the website Amazon to donate to victims of the storm that rocked the city and left thousand homeless.

Seven truckloads of donations made through the groups's Amazon wedding registry were delivered to the Occupy Sandy hub in Clinton Hill on Monday, with enough goods to make any engaged couple jealous.

But that was just one day, and according to the group’s Twitter feed, Occupy Sandy has raised more than $650,000 in donations through the registry since the storm.

“The response is overwhelming,” said organizer Amy Weng. “Donations are being made by people all over the country.

The sanctuary of The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew was full of brand new sleeping bags, fleece blankets, diapers and electronics. Teams of volunteers were working in full swing to distribute the items to the most affected areas.

Where the Occupy Wall Street movement failed in solidifying a common goal, the Occupy Sandy movement seems to have gotten it right.

When asked about the aims of Occupy Sandy, a simple answer was given.

“We are coordinating direct aid to communities affected by Hurricane Sandy,” organizer Damien Crisp said.

According to Crisp, the system that got off to a rocky start is now sailing along smoothly. Canvassers are going to door to door in Staten Island, the Rockaways, Long Island and Coney Island taking an inventory of what people in the field need.

Requests are then noted and transmitted to the communications center at distribution hubs. A group of techies hover over their computers communicating via Twitter, Facebook, email and phone to potential donors and the general public. 

They also add requested items to Amazon’s Occupy Sandy wedding registry, making them ready for purchase by anyone in the world.

When the donated items arrive, they are unloaded and transported by volunteer drivers back to where the requests were made.

“It may look like chaos,” said Weng. “But it is organized chaos.”

Occupy Sandy currently has 12 to 13 hubs in New York, according to Crisp. Some are in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, while smaller hubs lie in the affected areas. These hubs are in constant contact with each other, assessing the needs of Sandy victims and taking action to get donations out the door.

The Clinton Hill hub has become the unofficial center of activity, thanks to the Rev. Michael Sniffen and the Rev. Christopher Ballard, who donated use of the entire church for the cause.

“They have been amazing,” Weng said.

On Monday, more than 200 volunteers worked liked bees loading, sorting and distributing truckloads of shiny packages inside the church. Others went out in cars or by train to affected areas and canvassed homes or distributed the goods.

Some cooked hot meals or made sandwiches in the church kitchen to feed volunteers or transport to Sandy victims.

“We are sending out anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 meals a day,” Crisp said proudly.

Occupy Sandy currently needs blankets, flashlights, AAA batteries, gallon Ziploc bags, cleaning hardware, brooms, flat shovels, mops, masks, gloves, hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar, any sort of baby/toddler food and formula, duct and scotch tape, toiletries and can openers.

To buy these items through Occupy Sandy’s wedding registry, visit their website.

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