From Rev. Susan Karlson, Minister of the Unitarian Church of Staten Island
Let me begin with thanks for your generosity but also with a request: Please do not send or donate clothing of any kind, or blankets, or water to the relief efforts. The rescue organizations now have more of those items than they can adequately store. We suggest that you contact local relief organizations directly to determine which items are most needed or to learn what is available for help in your struggling areas. I am providing more details about whom and how to contact later in this blog post.
In the fourth week since Superstorm Sandy, I am hearing from more and more of our partners, friends and community organizations. In the past three weeks, many service organizations experienced glitches in their phone service, mobile connections and email service. All of the community organizations are now coming together to begin the work of long term strategies for recovery and renewal.
The Unitarian Church of Staten Island still has a role to play in recovery efforts. We are still receiving monetary gifts for Sandy Relief efforts
and I am still hearing from many people who want to donate goods and volunteer to rebuild. Our network of referrals and sites has grown. The Occupy Sandy organization has opened up a distribution center and volunteer training and coordination center last week. http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/ I visited them on Saturday. They were training thousands of volunteers and compiling donations in the Olympia Activity Center located near St. Margaret Mary at 1128 Olympia Blvd (347) 201-0670. Another recommended relief website is at Staten Island Recovers statenisland.recovers.org
I spoke with one of the volunteer trainers who stressed the importance of adequate training. She comes from New Orleans and knows firsthand
the problems people can experience when they are improperly equipped to go into dangerous dilapidated and moldy homes. Some people are going out without masks, placing them at great risk. We know so many people are living in these unsafe conditions when they have lost everything they have. I heard from one of the nurses who went out door to door that we are not well stocked on Staten Island for tetanus injections, needed when people are suffering cuts and serious injuries. Occupy Sandy is doing a good job of training and deploying people to neighborhoods where volunteers are needed.
I would emphasize what we do not need here on Staten Island and most of the boroughs: again, please do not send or donate clothing of any kind, blankets, or water. Many days, I walk out on my porch and find more clothing and blankets donated. We are not ungrateful for your kind donations–we just have warehouses, gymnasiums and cargo containers full of them and sending these items keeps us from having room for the supplies and things people in crisis really need at this stage of recovery. As before, please call me to help coordinate donations. Needs still change rapidly here. Occupy Sandy just got in several tractor trailers and so, do not really need the same items they needed before that. Because we are a small church and only have a very part time staff, if you call the church at (718) 447-2204, please understand that we will get back to you as soon as possible. Another number is given on the church line that may help you get in touch with me more rapidly.
Thank you so much for all your volunteer service and donations, your thoughts and prayers. At our 160th anniversary celebration, I read some of the hand-written notes we had gotten and I’ve posted all of these letters and a poster that Unitarian Universalist congregations have sent us. In this season of gratitude, we here on Staten Island are grateful for the outpouring of love and support coming from this Island’s residents and all across the country.
Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving with love and gratitude,
Rev. Susan Karlson