“I don’t think anyone thought it was going to be so bad.” This was a common sentiment I heard in the days that followed Sandy. People were cold, dazed and eventually furious that weeks later power still had not been restored to our part of northern Westchester.
But nothing compared to the horrific pictures and stories coming from Staten Island, New Jersey and Brooklyn. Sand-strewn streets, windows blown in, cars upturned, condemned homes, the devastation was shocking.
I spent a couple of hours online trying to figure out how I could help and signed up with the UJA of Westchester to volunteer with the outpour of donations.
The next day, my morning began with an email from a friend. She was putting out an SOS to all those who could help load a truck she had procured to transport the donations she had received from our community. Everyone had to be there by 8 a.m.
I arrived with my bags of donations from myself and customers, but nothing quite prepared me for what was waiting at her home. To my friend’s credit she has an immensely large, very spacious living room. When I arrived, I walked into an immensely large, very spacious warehouse. Within two days, her home had been transformed: diapers and water lined one very long wall, boxes of contractor bags and gloves lined another. But what were too numerous to count were the endless array of black garbage bags stuffed to the brim with warm coats, hats, gloves, blankets and toiletries. This sea of black flowed out of what was once her husband’s study, to his dismay. It was incredible to see how much generosity our small part of northern Westchester pulled together in so short a time.
Once the truck was loaded, I was off to UJA of Westchester. The situation was the same. I was there the entire day loading and unloading carloads of donations and eventually sorting through those bags and boxes. I left briefly to pick up my 16-year-old daughter who, I must confess, was not very excited to spend the afternoon in a dark, dusty room sorting through things. To my amazement, she thoroughly enjoyed sorting and picking through the bags and boxes that never seemed to lessen. (Note: This place is wonderful for teaching kids the value of organization and donating your time to a worthy cause.) My daughter wants to return again.
It’s amazing how communities come together during times of disaster. Everyone had their story of inconvenience, discomfort and disbelief, but knowing there were others much worse off, we opened our pocketbooks and time to those who were not as fortunate.