Monday, November 5, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up: The Resilience of the Human Spirit

My weekend was nothing short of humbling. The states of New York and New Jersey are wounded right now. Our neighbors are suffering. No, I am not just talking about power outages and restaurant closings (hello, first world problems). I'm talking about life and death situations. People have lost loved ones. One woman in Staten Island watched as the flood waters stripped her two babies (ages 2 and 4) from her arms. Countless people watched as fire consumed their homes in Breezy Point. People in the East Village have been forced to dumpster dive because there's not enough food and water to go around. To put it frankly, many people have lost everything.

Yehua, Evelyn, Kristi and Adam making the trek to Red Hook early Saturday morning, coffee in hand.
On Saturday, Adam and I joined our friends Kristi, Evelyn and Yehua to volunteer in Red Hook, Brooklyn, a waterfront neighborhood that was ravaged by the flood waters. We started by giving out FEMA food packages to people in the community. Then we reported to a volunteer post that had been canvassing the neighborhood to find people in need of manpower and supplies. 

The amazing volunteer turn out at the post in Red can't see it but the line wrapped around the block.
We had the opportunity to talk to a group of men who's apartment building was so structurally unsound that it had been condemned and locked tight by the NYFD. Instead of leaving their home, they chose to camp out in front of it until they had a chance to get back in and get their possessions out. One of them had lived there for 49 years and felt that even if he had to sleep on his doorstep, THIS was his home and he should protect it.

Piles and piles of trash that the city has yet to pick up.
Fallen trees crushing a fence.
The piles of trash we saw were only rivaled by the Blizzard of 2010.
So many possessions waterlogged and ruined.
Fallen trees at Coffey Park.
After speaking with them, we canvassed the neighborhood for people in need and found an older couple who needed help clearing out the mess that was now their basement. The basement had been full of clothes, furniture and mementos, which were all now ruined and soaked through. We spent most of the day helping them haul everything out and then shoveling up the sludge and water in the basement.

Kenny (on the left) giving me one very telling face for the camera. Kenny's basement was destroyed from the water.
(P.S. Sometimes breaking for Budweiser is the only way to keep the morale up.)
This is why we had to break for Budweiser. So many things lost to water.
Turns out, we were working alongside the owners of Brooklyn Crab, a fairly new waterfront restaurant in Red Hook that was surprisingly unscathed by the storm. Being the good people that they are, they opened the restaurant at noon and served the community free lunch and free beer. It was so heartening to see strangers pulling together, helping each other out and finding a reason to laugh and be thankful in the face of this disaster.

Lunch at Brooklyn Crab, on the house. Good people, those Brooklyn Crab guys!
As we walked home Saturday, I found my eyes filling with tears. As we got closer and closer to home, the scenery started to look normal again. People were 'brunching', children were playing on the playground, friends were gathering together to enjoy the weekend. While all these things are well and good (and part of recovery), I couldn't help but think that these very people might not realize that their neighbors (just less than a mile away) really needed their help.

The line to get free food and water at a local church.
On Sunday, we found ourselves in Staten Island, which was hit even harder by the hurricane. The beachfront homes and businesses there face a long road when it comes to rebuilding. We grabbed supplies at Costco, delivered them to some neighborhoods in need and then helped our friends deliver homemade chili to three locations along the water. People had been working so hard that they honestly forgot to eat, and on top of that, it was getting very cold.

Katie, Ari and I supply hunting at the biggest place around. 
One of the neighborhoods that got hit badly. 
Piles of trash by the waterfront.
This volunteer post and donation center was rockin' and rollin' all day long through the wind and cold.
Downed power lines all over. 
There is so much trash that they are now making the beach parking lot into a temporary landfill.
Lots of big trucks and machinery being deployed to clear debris and fix lines.
Adam serving up chili to volunteers and people in need.
I want to personally thank all of you who helped donate to our 'Hurricane Sandy Staten Island Brigade' cause via Facebook. We raised over $1,000 dollars and anything else that is donated going forward will be used to buy supplies as they are needed. If you'd still like to donate, there's still time. You can click here.

I encourage you to find it in your heart to offer a helping hand. If you live in New York, please understand that these operations aren't ceasing because power is back on and people are back to work. There is so much work to be done for weeks and months to come.  These people need our help. Shelters need volunteers to make and distribute food, neighborhoods need us to help them clean up debris on the street and in homes, victims need us to offer a hug, a kind word and a prayer. And if you haven't heard, a Nor'easter is on the way, which means that many of these displaced families will face yet another very scary situation because of the cold. 

If you are not in New York, please find it in your hearts to donate money to the cause. There's our fundraiser above, as well as many other organizations taking donations. A quick Google search will send you well on your way. If you love animals and would like to help provide for the many cats displaced by the storm, you can make a donation through KittyKind by clicking here.

I hope you are all safe and warm! Thank you for your prayers and all the donations you have made to my friends and neighbors! We appreciate you so much. As I begin school this month at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and continue to help my neighbors in need, I will be posting a bit less frequently on the blog (hopefully 3-4 times/week) going forward. I'm hoping that the extra time spent learning more intricate nutrition concepts will provide me with more knowledge to share with you! So hang in there with me and wish me luck!

Walter decided to join me for a much-needed afternoon nap post-clean up.
Decided to end the day with some hot tea because on top of it all, I had a nasty cold.


  1. Lauren,
    I was moved by your pictures of the devastation. I am so proud of you and Adam for stepping up to help those affected by the storm. Keep up the good work!:)
    Love you guys!
    Uncle Dave

    1. Thank you, Uncle Dave. The more help they have, the faster they recover! Keep them in your prayers! Oh...and thank you for sharing this on Facebook as well! Extra eyes don't hurt at all! :)