Occupy Wall Street movement transforms into Occupy Sandy
by Kathleen Lees
Nov 13, 2012 | 8614 views | 0 0 comments | 62 62 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Carrying boxes of canned food, hot meals and blankets for distribution, Occupy Sandy volunteers do their part to help those hit hard by the hurricane throughout Coney Island, the Rockaways and other areas.

“We just got in a shipment of 1,400 blankets,” says Easton Smith to volunteers as he bustles into a downstairs kitchen. He is the site coordinator at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew at 520 Clinton Ave., one of three Occupy Sandy hubs, with the others at St. Jacobi Church at 5406 4th Ave. and the Red Hook Initiative at 767 Hicks Street.

Easton says with the help of Occupy Faith, an interfaith grassroots relief effort developed through Occupy Wall Street organizers, local churches have opened their doors to store donations, train volunteers and provide other relief efforts.

“They were like 'yes, use our church,'” Easton, a resident of Bushwick, said. He added that over 2,500 volunteers had signed up to help at the location.

With the church's help, Inter Occupy, working groups and locals from the Occupy Wall Street movement have helped to train individuals to aid relief efforts. And with the basic principles from the original Occupy movement, Occupy Sandy volunteers are spreading the word through Facebook, Twitter and other means of social media.

Avidly watching her computer, Alexis Goldstein, who is in charge of assigning volunteers to drive to designated areas for drop-offs and pick-ups, is in constant communication with other donation sites and the social media staff.

As many sites - particularly in Staten Island and the Rockaways - close at 5 p.m., Goldstein has to determine if anyone else will be going out to distribute goods. And with the gas shortage, volunteers with vehicles also have fewer opportunities to drive.

“We're hoping to get a new Occupy Sandy hub out in those areas, soon,” she says.

As food coordinator Sierra Springarn prepares to close the kitchen, a worried volunteer asks what they're going to do with all the leftover bread rolls from the last few days.

“Give it to me, and I'll take care of it,” Springarn, a resident of Greenpoint, replies. “Nothing goes to waste here.”

In the church's basement, Springarn works with volunteers who come in throughout the day to prepare hot meals and make sandwiches.

Spingarn says volunteers help put out approximately 1,500 hot and packaged meals a day to give out throughout hard hit areas of the boroughs.

“The whole magic of this is that people want to help,” Springarn says. “Some even come in two hours early before they go to work in the morning.”

With the canceling of the New York Marathon, occupiers received hundreds of marathon backpacks, which they are using to package dry meals. Springarn added that with donations through the Occupy Sandy gift registry, people from all over the country were donating much needed supplies with just the click of a button, including many goods that were used in the kitchen.

“It's just incredible,” she said.

As skeptics of the Occupy Wall Street movement watched it fade into the backdrop when when protestors were forced from Zucotti Park last November, volunteers of Occupy Sandy, many of which are from the original movement, feel this could bring the cause back to the forefront.

“This could definitely be some catalyst for a resurgence for the word ‘occupy,’” Easton said.

However, Easton stressed that unlike Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Sandy does not have a political agenda. “We just trust that everybody who wants something is going to use it for a good cause,” he said. “And we try and make it happen.”

To find out more about the relief effort, visit interoccupy.net/occupysandy.

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