Superstorm Sandy: Before, During And Beyond
3:09 am
Sun November 18, 2012

Staten Island Relief Efforts Are A Community Affair

Originally published on Sun November 18, 2012 4:09 pm

On a street corner in Midland Beach on Staten Island, volunteers have set up a makeshift stand. There's no tent here, no corporate logos — just a couple of folding tables and cardboard boxes full of food, clothing and cleaning supplies.

Ross Decker is the guy in charge.

"Anytime we run out of something, I tell the people just come back in 20 minutes, it'll be here," he says.

Decker says the site, badly flooded during Superstorm Sandy, was picked by a handful of local churches. This volunteer operation seems to be stocked mainly through the kindness of strangers.

Like the time they ran out of bleach, a woman came offering hot chili and apple pie, which they accepted.

"And then she said, 'Oh, I also have bleach.' And she had two cases of bleach in her trunk, randomly, and it was exactly what we needed at that moment," Decker says.

Decker's own house on Staten Island was not damaged in the storm, but he put his regular life on hold to help those who weren't as lucky. Decker and his wife have raised more than $12,000 through a website. He's spending it on whatever people tell him they need.

"If they tell me beds, then I grab that money and I buy beds," he says.

Decker unpacks a box of small folding cots. Just then, two women walk to the corner, coming to pick them up.

Loreena and Eva Levitt lived a few blocks away — until flooding from Sandy made the first two floors of their house uninhabitable. They're staying with friends. They say it's crowded, but at least now the kids won't have to sleep on the floor.

"That's the only help we ever got. The real people — that's the only help we got," Loreena Levitt says. "That's the people that stood up and did what they had to do to help the neighborhood. Not anybody else."

The volunteers come from all over the country. Glen Craig drove down from Maine after the storm, and he's been helping out ever since.

"Tearing out sheet rock, ripping out floors, basically consoling people, hugging people, offering them money, but they won't take it. Just everything you would want your neighbors to do for you," he says.

A few blocks away, there's a larger relief center in the parking lot of a shuttered strip mall. This one is run by Movement for Peace, a small charity based in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Robert Servis, the group's president, estimates that they are serving about 3,000 free meals a day, and giving away 800 gallons of bleach. Even before he got here, Servis says he was getting donations from people all over the country.

"We went around Ann Arbor. We talked to almost every single business, a lot of residents, and they donated about 2,000 pounds of supplies," he says. "And this time, we've had a lot more supplies come in ... there's a constant stream."

As Servis is talking, a tour bus pulls up. Volunteers in matching t-shirts get out and unload cases of bottled water and other supplies. Then the bus rolls away. The volunteers at Movement for Peace stay put; they say they'll be here as long as they're needed.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast almost three weeks ago. New York City officials now say about 200 homes that were severely damaged by the storm will have to be demolished. Hundreds of other buildings hit hard by the storm are still being inspected. Meanwhile, thousands of people in New York and New Jersey still lack the basics - heat, power, food, shelter. Government agencies and major charities are trying to meet those needs, but as NPR's Joel Rose reports, many volunteers have started their own disaster relief efforts to help fill the gaps.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: On Staten Island, volunteers are going where they're needed the most - to street corners like this one in Midland Beach, which was badly flooded during the storm. There's no tent here, no corporate logos - just a couple of folding tables and cardboard boxes full of food, clothing and cleaning supplies.

ROSS DECKER: Anytime we run out of something, I tell the people just come back in 20 minutes, it'll be here.

ROSE: Ross Decker is the guy in charge. He says the site was picked by a handful of local churches. It seems to be stocked mainly through the kindness of strangers.

DECKER: We ran out of bleach and a woman came and she said I have hot chili and apple pie. So, we said, oh, OK, we'll take that. And then said, oh, I also have bleach. And she had two cases of bleach in her trunk, randomly, and it was exactly what we needed at that moment.

ROSE: Decker's own house on Staten Island was not damaged in the storm, but he put his regular life on hold to help those who weren't as lucky. Decker and his wife have raised more than $12,000 through a website. And he's spending it on whatever people tell him they need.

DECKER: If they tell me beds, then I grab that money and I buy beds. So, we just bought these today.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLASTIC CRUMPLING)

ROSE: Decker is unpacking a box of small folding cots. Just then, two women walk to the corner.

DECKER: You want to take these cots right now? Are these good?

EVA LEVITT: Yeah, for the kids, yes.

ROSE: Loreena and Eva Levitt were living a few blocks away - or they did until flooding from Sandy made the first two floors of their house uninhabitable. They're staying with friends. They say it's crowded, but at least now the kids won't have to sleep on the floor.

LOREENA LEVITT: That's the only help we ever got. You know, the real people, that's the only help we got. And that's the people that stood up and did what they had to do to help the neighborhood. Not anybody else.

E. LEVITT: The volunteers, God bless them.

ROSE: The volunteers come from all over the country. Glen Craig drove down from Maine after the storm, and he's been helping out ever since.

GLEN CRAIG: Tearing out sheet rock, ripping out floors, basically consoling people, hugging people, offering them money, but they won't take it. Just everything that you would want your neighbors to do for you.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHATTER)

ROSE: A few blocks away, there's a larger relief center in the parking lot of a shuttered strip mall. This one is run by Movement for Peace, a small charity based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Robert Servis is the group's president. He says they're serving about 3,000 free meals a day, and giving away 800 gallons of bleach. Even before he got here, Servis says he was getting donations from people all over the country.

ROBERT SERVIS: We went around Ann Arbor. We talked to almost every single business, a lot of residents, and they donated about 2,000 pounds of supplies. And since this time, we've just had a lot more supplies come in. So, I mean, like I said, there's a constant stream. Hey, thank you guys, thank you guys.

ROSE: While we were talking, a tour bus pulls up. Volunteers in matching T-shirts got out and unloaded cases of bottled water and other supplies. Then the bus rolled away. The volunteers at Movement for Peace stayed put. They say they'll be here as long as they're needed. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.