The Jersey Shore, Summer 2012.
I am 900 miles from my brother, aunts, uncles, cousins and dear friends who have survived Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and New York.
Actually, people I love are all up and down the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast — from the Carolinas to New England.
Everyone is physically fine.
To say I feel helpless in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is an understatement, though my gratitude for everyone’s safety cannot be minimized.
So, in an effort to “do something” beyond our donation to the Red Cross, I’ve composed a list based on my experience with a 1998 tornado and a 2010 historic flood of how you can help survivors and your community if you can.
How to Help Hurricane Sandy Survivors
- Put on your work boots and heavy gloves — Clean up. People are going to need everything from houses gutted, to debris cleaned up to personal items sorted and dipped in bleach water.
- Feed the volunteers — Your church or community group can make sack lunches and hot meals for the volunteers who will come to help. You can shop for, make, or deliver the meals. (Bless the volunteers who just walk up to you and offer to clean up or chop a tree. Bless them.)
- Volunteer at a Red Cross Relief Center — Survivors will come to the shelter to eat, sleep, get supplies, fill out forms. You can do everything at a relief center from helping people fill out forms, to cooking a hot meal to helping people load up on provisions like food and cleaning supplies.
- Shop for supplies — Rubber gloves, alcohol wipes, wet wipes, sponges, garbage bags, bleach, cleaning supplies. Our church and church members bought these and distributed them to volunteers and survivors.
- Help spread information — start a Twitter account, a blog, a Facebook page to distribute up-to-date information for your community. Print flyers with the information and social media URLs. Take photographs and video for history and perspective, but only if the homeowner and volunteer is OK with it.
- Hug friends and strangers – These are deep and personal losses. Take the time to listen and empathize with survivors. Allow them the time to process and don’t push them to “move on” just yet. They will. In time.
When my Nashville home was hit by a tornado in 1998 and my community epically flooded in 2010, the kindness of strangers — and my own volunteering — turned grim times into moments to celebrate human kindness. Those disasters changed my life…and for the better, in the end.
The toughest part was still being stuck in the recovery while the world kept on going. It felt never-ending and oppressive sometimes. It felt as if people forgot, or when they asked “Everything alright now?” just a couple weeks later, it was hard not to freak out and scream “NO, it is NOT!”
The tarp stapled to our roof after the tornado was there for weeks while we waited for repairs. The flapping that tarp made in the wind was a horrible sound, and was a constant reminder of the work still ahead.
My heart breaks now for the losses. I lived in New Jersey and have had some of the best moments of my life (including my 45th birthday this year) in the places now so devastated. The amount of work appears to be overwhelming and insurmountable.
But, recovery will come. And, knowing what I know of my tough people up North, it will be alright.