EG Couple Head To NYC For A Day To Help
Odessa Cozzolino and Phil Nutting spent Monday raking muck and serving food in Rockaway, New York.
Last Sunday (Nov. 4) Odessa Cozzolino read a friend's post on Facebook describing the hardships being endured by those hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy in the Far Rockaway section of Queens in New York City.
The post, which linked to this blog, struck a chord.
"I read it, re-posted it, and couldn't get it out of my head," said Cozzolino, a Spring Street resident who is a freelance photographer. She decided she had to go there and see what she could do.
Some friends offered to help with after-school child care (she and her husband, Phil Nutting have two elementary school-age children), Nutting re-arranged his Monday schedule and by 3 p.m. Sunday they were at BJ's buying supplied.
"We used a 'free 60-day membership' offer to buy toilet paper, diapers, cleaning products, tampons, pads, dog food, cat food, trash bags, etc.," said Cozzolino Tuesday.
They also sent emails and used Facebook to let people know they could drop off supplies and Cozzolino emailed contacts through Occupy Sandy, a volunteer effort that arose in the wake of the storm, for help figuring out where they should go.
"Sunday night we loaded up the car. Monday morning people were dropping stuff off while we got the kids off to school," she said. "We left by 8:45 a.m.
"Forty-seven miles outside of NYC there were already lines for gasoline. We refilled our tank and the gas can we brought with us," she said.
"We called the blogger. She said they needed people / help at the location she'd written about, but not supplies. Supplies were desperately needed at the Rockaway Library, which has been turned into a community support center.
"We decided to drop stuff at the library. There were lines and lines and lines. Everywhere. And it was cold. And heartbreaking. People begging for stuff for their kids," she said.
"They had enough help there so we went to the other location. There they had taken over three empty storefronts (with owners' permission), cleaned them out and had a free 'shop' set up," said Cozzolino. "They were setting up a medical clinic in another spot."
"Hot food was shuttled out from Occupy groups using three church kitchens in Brooklyn. The food was amazing – hot, delicious and healthy. "'Hot' was the operative word for many, since they were so, so, so cold. A Greenpeace solar panel truck was there, providing some little bit of power. All are without power or heat. They were told that the power would probably come on sometime after Thanksgiving. People are cold. The kids are cold.
"I spent most of the day feeding people. Phil spent the day mucking out basements. He was told when he walked in, 'Assume everything you touch has been soaked in raw sewage, it probably has. Always wear plastic gloves and a mask. Are you still willing to do this?'
"FEMA and Red Cross were noticeably absent," Cozzolino said.
Here are Cozzolino's Facebook posts from Monday:
10:30 a.m. 47 miles outside of NYC and already lines for gas.
11:30 a.m. Mile long (at least) line for gas station. No power. Street lights out.
12:15 p.m. Electric crews from all over. Just saw Quebec hydro truck working on lines.
3 p.m. Helping Occupy serve fresh, healthy hot food for free. It's extraordinary. And it feels good to hand kids plates full of food.
You know it's bad when every child passes up munchins without a second glance in favor of chili and chicken stew.
5:30 p.m. Hubby spent the entire time mucking out basements. I definitely got the better (though colder) deal! — with Phil Nutting.
6 p.m. Traffic jam due to a boat in the middle of the road. True story.
8 p.m. Ok. So we finally found a bathroom, soap to wash our hands and some food. On our way home now, tired but happy. Here are some of my thoughts about what we saw today. 1. It's bad. I mean really bad in Rockaway. And it seems to be basically being ignored. Which brings me to point 2. Today the only evidence I saw, in my travels, of the Red Cross or FEMA was three people with Red Cross blankets and at one point this afternoon a parade of government cars, led by a politician with an entourage of photographers went down the street we were working on. The line of cars, all clearly official, took about 15-20 minutes to pass. Two of them were marked Red Cross and FEMA. They took photos out their windows of us, while we fed, clothed, and cleaned.
Occupy has done and is doing what no one else seems to be doing. Occupy is a seemingly scattered, leaderless group that is taking over abandoned buildings, cleaning them out and then distributing food, supplies, medical care and helping people clean out their houses. It's amazing. Extraordinary. It's just a bunch of people showing up and doing what needs to be done. And it works. Apparently better than the big organizations.
11 p.m. Happy to be in my warm, dry home. heart filled with gratitude for the people who made today possible. ... ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ you all rock.