Volunteering beyond Word Up

Did you know that everyone who works at Word Up does so on a volunteer basis? Here is a recent report from one of our longtime volunteer coordinators, Mary Ann Wincorkowski:

Since Hurricane Sandy ravaged parts of New York and New Jersey, the Word Up volunteer collective email group has been actively sharing and organizing volunteer opportunities. Except for the loss of some very old trees and minor flooding, much of Northern Manhattan was relatively untouched by Hurricane Sandy. So, like many New Yorkers, we mobilized our resources as best we could to help out those who needed it. We’re volunteers—it’s what we do!

Individuals among the collective began volunteering at area shelters the night of the storm. But Word Up volunteers started doing so in the area in larger groups after calls to action came from Council Members Robert Jackson and Ydanis Rodriguez’s offices: with shelters being consolidated throughout the city, more evacuees would be heading uptown in particular, to the temporary shelter set up for evacuees at George Washington High School on Audubon Avenue at 193 Street. Ten to fifteen Word Up volunteer collective members cycled through over the course of a few days, and monitored clothing and supply intake, escorted evacuees with disabilities, among other duties.

This past Sunday, with the help of the office of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a group of seven Word Up volunteers boarded a bus with members of the Ohab Zedek congregation from the Upper West Side of Manhattan and traveled to Long Beach, Long Island, “where the bay met the ocean during the storm,” as Rabbi Linton said. We were all placed together to help the Paretzky family, whose house was badly flooded. Many of their possessions were totally destroyed. Funnily enough, the first task the Pareztkys asked us to take on was to pack up their salvageable books! We all had flashbacks to our last week of August and knew immediately which roles would suit who best: who would pack the boxes, who would label, who would scout for more boxes, who would move the bookcases once empty. We hope the few hours we were able to help made a difference to the Paretzkys. They and their neighbors have a lot of work ahead of them.

The destruction and loss of material goods was astounding. Jumbled stacks of discarded building materials, torn out of waterlogged residences and businesses, interspersed with cast-off personal belongings, lined every street on Long Beach. The sidewalks smelled like mildewy basement. Floors are still damp and wet sheetrock discarded. The power is still out. Sand, which shifted inland from ocean-side during the storm, has been recollected by bulldozers and piled in three-story-tall mesas back near the beach.

Each day, it seems, another collective member forwards along a list seeking volunteers to travel to the far reaches of Queens, Staten Island, or Long Island to help clean this up or repair that. We keep each other motivated to help our fellow New Yorkers and informed about how and where to go about it. The storm has passed, but for those in low-lying areas of the region, the cleanup after Hurricane Sandy will be going on for months to come. For information how you can help, contact your local city council member, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s office, Occupy Sandy, NYC Service, or New York Cares.

Bill de Blasio: http://pubadvocate.nyc.gov
Occupy Sandy: http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy
NYC Service: http://www.nycservice.org
NY Cares: http://www.newyorkcares.org


One response to “Volunteering beyond Word Up

  1. Thank you for sharing this account. We were just talking about that tonight at our First Person Plural reading that often survivors don’t need supplies (though many do), they often need people to simply help them do the labor. How poignant that you were immediately asked to sort and salvage books. Beautiful work. Glad you could help that family.

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