Helping out, Part I: Guyon Rescue, Staten Island
Over my Christmas vacation, I spent hours on a cold floor in Staten Island rolling black plastic contractor bags into bundles of ten.
On my knees, I wrestled with the bags as a camper would a slippery sleeping bag and secured them together with a rubber band. Though this job seemed minor and menial in the scope of helping in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, to someone else who needed those bags to clean up whatever was left of their house, it might mean a lot.
As I worked, a steady stream of volunteers flitted in an out, stocking shelves as well as dropping off supplies. One woman who seemed somewhat in charge said she had volunteered at the Post every single day since the storm hit. Other shelters were closing on the Island and this leading volunteer feared that already, the rest of the world was forgetting what happened here.
She’s the one who needed those contractor bags bundled.
And she needed me to divide up other supplies like steel wool pads with those tiny pods of dish soap.
And she had socks that needed sorting and baby food inspected for expiration dates. My three kids got on that job.
At Guyon Rescue, there is no need for volunteers to make a reservation. There are no shifts. No training videos or marketing messages like other food pantries where my family has volunteered. You just show up and say you want to help. And they put you right to work.
Guyon Rescue is not a shelter, exactly. No one sleeps there. But to the many neighbors in this devastated area of Staten Island, Guyon Rescue has become a vital resource for short-term help since Hurricane Sandy.
Guyon Rescue is an all-volunteer grassroots network of workers and donors that have set up camp in a VFW Lodge around the corner from my childhood home, across the street from so many homes damaged and destroyed. Two months after the storm, you would not believe how people are still living unless you walk the streets here for yourself.
My husband and I also worked outside. With numbed fingers, we scrubbed out a donated refrigerator until the shelves were clean enough to eat from. We dried off equipment and supplies in a make-shift outdoor kitchen sheltered only by a tattered, tarp roof. Many of those preparing meals lived in the neighborhood and could tell stories of the storm surge. Of how many feet of water was in their basement. Or up to the ground floor. In the aisles of the food pantry, one woman collecting goods after she showed her FEMA card at the door told me how she swam out of her house.
It was Christmas Day, and soon, many who still had no power – or were camped out in cars near the remains of their property – would be coming to the post for a hot lunch.
At night, just a quarter mile from Guyon Rescue, my husband and I slept in my parent’s basement on an air mattress. It’s been two months since the storm and the basement looks back to normal. Except they lost most of their furniture when it became flooded with nearly four feet of water.
Now, don’t you go taking out any tiny violins for me or my family. We are the lucky ones.
Over my Christmas vacation to New York city, I also saw the Scream,
and Starry Night
We dined on the finest hot dogs and kinishes a New York City street vendor could offer.
And of course, we visited the tree in Rockefeller Center.
But if you ask me what was the best – the BEST part of my Christmas vacation back to New York City, it was volunteering with the good people at Guyon Rescue.
Want to make a difference in Staten Island with Guyon Rescue? Keep updated by following them on Facebook here. Because the recovery is not over.
In Staten Island, it’s only getting started.