red cross worker in the rockaways during hurricane sandy

In the days following Hurricane Sandy’s devastating landfall in NYC, County Fair teamed up with Erstwhile Jewelry and DS and Durga perfumers to  raise funds and deliver over $20,000 of urgently needed supplies to victims of Hurricane Sandy in the Rockaways.  Our initiative, (an informal collection of funds through and purchasing and delivering of supplies) was a success, and we wanted to share some of our experiences here.

In the early stages of the devastating storm surge and fires in the Rockaways, organized relief was basically nonexistent.  We realized this on our first trip with a car full of diapers, food, water, cleaning supplies, and other items we had heard were in need. When we arrived in the Rockaways, we were surprised to find we were among the first to get there, and that there were no designated places to drop off such supplies. We went to the FEMA trailers and asked, but they just looked at us confusedly and said they “had no idea”. We drove around some more and found that Rockaway Taco had set up a mini-distribution center- they were trying their best to organize and distribute goods at the same time, as a bustling line formed on the muddy sidewalk.  As we were unloading our car, people just walked up to us and asked for items they needed, so we handed them out as needed, then left the remainder at Rockaway Taco for distribution.

As we drove away, we were struck by the lack of organized support out there, and the clear need for it.  We saw that our donations, while well-intended, required much sorting and more manpower to distribute safely and evenly to the population.  It seemed certain items were in high demand- flashlights, garbage bags, hand warmers, bleach- while other items (old clothing, paper plates, canned food) were for the most part being left in piles on the streets.

Clearly there was a disconnect between the kind donations of those far away and the needs of the people on the ground.  So we decided to offer our friends, family, and colleagues the chance to contribute in a very direct way.

We set up an event in, posted it on Facebook, and sent emails to everyone we knew.  We rented a 15 passenger production van.  We cleared our calendars for the next 3 days, and focused on making as many trips to the Rockaways as we could in that time.  We collected funds from our contributors and used them to purchase the most needed prioritized supplies in bulk, then deliver them to the Rockaways.  In the end, we raised over $20,000, and were able to make 7 trips to the Rockaways over 3 days to deliver the following items to the most organized donation centers on the ground:

  • 6 5500W generators
  • 8 3500 W generators
  • 16 portable space heaters
  • 640 pairs of handwarmers
  • 1200 Contractor Bags
  • 16 gallons of bleach
  • 2124 AA batteries
  • 522 led flashlights
  • 7560 Diapers
  • 9000 Baby Wipes
  • 500 Adult Diapers
  • 900 Tampons
  • 12 Cases baby formula
  • 162 pair work gloves
  • 2640 Band Aids
  • 50 tubes neosporin
  • 50,000 ibuprofen pills
  • 50,0000 Aceitominaphen pills
  • 12 bottles hydrogen peroxide
  • 1000 Clif Bars
  • 250 bags nuts
  • Lots of other assorted Food

Our donations were met with astonished gratitude by Rockaway residents- apparently large deliveries of these needed items in bulk (especially the flashlights, batteries, and generators, gloves, etc.) were pretty rare.  We wanted to share this experience, because while our contribution was only a drop in the bucket, we found it to be an incredibly efficient way to help, and we feel we really maximized our limited time by doing it this way.

Of course the Rockaways and other parts of NY and NJ are still in lots of need.  While our initiative is finished for now, there are lots of other ways to contribute.  The Occupy Sandy Relief webpage is the best place to start- they are on the ground every day assisting with all kinds of relief/recovery efforts, and have a way for you to donate everything from your time, to your money, and to specifically needed items.  Lots of ways to lend a hand.

Distribution center just getting going at Rockaway Taco.

Distribution center just getting going at Rockaway Taco.