If you watched the Hurricane Sandy relief telethon and texted $10 to the Red Cross when Bruce rocked or Christina crooned, then you are certainly not alone. The telethon raised $23 million dollars for Sandy's victims. But some of you may be wondering how you can do more. And you may want to know that your money is really going to the victims. I've been following the storm's aftermath very intensely, as many of the areas right around me are devastated.
I've been keeping track of the groups that are on the ground and the ones that are MIA. I've been asking people who they saw when they came out of their storm-ripped home looking for help. Most of the time, the answer I got was not FEMA or the Red Cross. If you still want to help, here are 8 ways you can help beyond donating to the Red Cross.
AmeriCares. AmeriCares has been delivering flashlights, bottled water, first aid kits, and medical help to those who need it in both states. A day after I delivered 20 flashlights to flooded and still-powerless Red Hook, Brooklyn, AmeriCares swooped in with thousands of them.
Occupy Sandy. An offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, this is one of the first groups I heard about who went directly into hard-hit neighborhoods and began coordinating food, clothing, and supplies drives, going door to door, and checking on elderly people in cold, darkened buildings. They seem to do it all -- a friend of mine who became stranded after a mercy mission when his car battery died even had an Occupier drive him home.
Gray Beards. I've heard many reports from locals that Gray Beards is on the ground in some of the worst hit areas of New York, including the leveled Breezy Point, a working class neighborhood of many firemen and policemen, where 100 homes burned to the ground.
ASPCA. The ASPCA is helping rescue stranded pets as well as giving pet food to those in need. They were the first group I saw with a dedicated emergency pet rescue hotline and they have been going door to door looking for abandoned animals.
Sean Casey Animal Rescue. This group has been taking in a lot of rescued and abandoned pets, especially dogs, from the shore areas of Brooklyn, which were hit particularly hard. But they also have taken in turtles, birds, cats and snakes.
Alley Cat Allies. This group has been all over New York and New Jersey feeding the feral cats who were left behind after the storm, including the famous outdoor cats of the Atlantic City boardwalk, most of whom miraculously survived the 'cane.
Find out what is really needed. Most groups are too busy right now to update their websites. Check their Facebook pages and follow them on Twitter. You'll be able to find out exactly what they need through those channels. If you'd rather donate supplies than money, check their Facebook walls for an Amazon gift registry. When in doubt, call the group and ask what they need. Some things that are always needed: Bottled water, toiletries (toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand wipes), WARM clothes like coats and gloves, waterproof boots, flashlights, C and D batteries, and cleaning supplies.
Be proactive. Call your local church or school -- most are holding Sandy donation drives. If your church is collecting lots of non-perishable food, you might suggest collecting batteries and Clorox too. And remember, it pays to do a little research on a group before writing out a check. Be wary of donating to sob stories you see on ChipIn and Facebook without verifying that they're true.
Have you donated to Sandy relief efforts?
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