As Hurricane Sandy eases away from the East Coast and the cleanup begins, major charitable organizations are increasing their reach and personalizing relief efforts thanks to social media.
Melanie Pipkin, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross, said that Twitter and Facebook have allowed the organization to affect more people than it could in previous disasters. On Monday night, the number (90999) that the Red Cross made available so people could text message direct $10 donations was passed around Twitter at rapid fire. And as the storm surged, Pipkin said, thousands of posts per hour were mentioning the Red Cross, with Tweets from sources as varied as the WWE, Cindy Crawford, and Mitt Romney.
"As of 11:40 a.m. on Tuesday, we collected over 540,000 posts related to Sandy," Pipkin told The Huffington Post. "And the text-donation number was mentioned by lots of celebrities and other people with many followers, so that helped."
Though the staff at the Red Cross itself is small -- fewer than five are directly employed in full time social media operations -- Pipkin said that the organization has amassed a vast network of "digital volunteers" who can reach out to people on behalf of the Red Cross, and spread information across their own personal networks.
"Our volunteers in non-affected areas can be very active now," Pipkin said. "People a couple states away can offer emotional support, write back to someone who is home alone, let them know they're not alone and somebody is there for them, in addition to donating."
Robert Ottenhoff, president and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, said that since Hurricane Katrina, social media has gotten better at alerting more people how to prepare for a storm of Sandy's magnitude.
"The communities in affected areas of Sandy were pre-positioned," said Ottenhoff. "States were all pretty well organized and declared disaster areas quickly, sometimes days before the worst of it. Social media played a big role in that."
All the major relief organizations are mobilized, in the immediate aftermath, to provide assistance, Ottenhoff said -- from Feeding America, which had prepared to distribute food, water and supplies to people in Sandy-affected areas, to The Humane Society, which had mobilized its own animal rescue efforts in advance of the storm. Ottenhoff said he learned from Katrina the importance of keeping philanthropic operations on the ground, even after the initial rush of media coverage.
"After the TV cameras are gone, people tend to move on and don't really think about it," Ottenthoff said. "What we're trying to do is organize private philanthropy, foundations, corporations, and focus their attention on recovery and rebuilding."
Robert Wolfe, co-founder of the crowd-funding social platform, Crowdrise, said social media can be a double-edged sword in disasters. On one hand, he said, the best way to raise money for a cause is to hear from friends or from people you follow and respect, since a personal note has so much more impact than some organization blanketing people with blind requests.
"But I think the potential risk is that, while its great at building awareness, some concern is that on Twitter success is a re-Tweet instead of taking real action," Wolfe said. "Something we all need to guard against is making sure it doesn't stop real action."
Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist who has donated much of his time to philanthropy via his own Craig Connects network, already announced that he would match the first $25,000 of donations to hurricane relief efforts submitted via his Crowdrise page. He said he hopes other people in the tech realm will follow suit.
"It's important for anyone with resources to help out now," Newmark said. "That applies to big philanthropy players. I'd like to see more from my peers in the technology world, to get out the word better."
Newmark said that doing something like this is "the least a guy sitting behind a desk could do."
Others are thinking far (very far) outside the box. As Hannah Sassaman wrote on a Change.org petition page Monday night, she was watching HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" during the storm and got to thinking.
"Thousands of families and workers in Atlantic City have wrecked businesses, closed schools, delayed jobs, and destroyed beaches to look forward to tonight," Sassaman wrote. "HBO can use its powerful media platform to raise money and support local, state, and federal relief efforts."
As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, 60 people had signed Sassaman's pledge.
For more ways you can help, in person or through donations, on a local or state level, read our Liveblog below. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy has set up a fund for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, and The American Red Cross said blood donations are extremely helpful right now.
The famed Asian fusion chain is hosting a benefit to help Governor, a Dumbo-based restaurant that was shuttered due to the storm.
New York Cares plans to donate 2,000 coats on Nov. 13 to Sandy victims in need and aims to collect a total of 50,000 coats. From a press release:
New or gently used coats can be sent or delivered directly to our warehouse, located at 157 West 31st Street between 6th and 7th Avenue. We will now be open this Saturday. Drop off your coats Monday through Saturday. 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Additional resources for coat collection can be found in our resource library.
Met Council, one of New York's largest human services agencies, is collecting much-needed supplies for Sandy victims throughout the five boroughs. From a press release:
"Drop off centers are open for item collection at 171 Lexington Avenue and 315 West 61st Street in Manhattan. A third collection will open this Wednesday, November 7th at 351 East 61st Street in Manhattan. We also have a location in Staten Island at 460 N. Brielle Avenue on the grounds of Seaview Hospital. Items that are most needed at this time include kosher food, water, toiletries, new towels, new coats, paper towels, gloves, garbage bags, and cleaning supplies. Detailed information on hands-on volunteer opportunities will be made available as soon as possible."
"Right now the need is relief and recovery but very soon it will be long term reconstruction. Beyond the large scale water and wind damage we need to think about upgrading and restoring in a more sustainable and resilient manner. We want to make sure that communities are built back better and are already responding to a number of enquiries from affected areas."
"We are collecting money for bulk buys of supplies like underwear, socks, towels, water, ice etc. For Brooklyn shelters and evacuees -- we realized when the folks at the John Jay shelter told us that they needed 600 pairs of underpants a day that a more focused effort was needed!"
The owners of New Jersey's NJ Skateshop are desperately trying to collect winter clothes for neighbors without heat and members of their community who were left homeless by Hurricane Sandy, as a Nor'easter is forecast to hit the stricken area next week.
NYRR had already secured busses for 40,000 people to be transported to Staten Island on Sunday morning. Marathon runners are a worldwide, strong-willed & spirited community always ready to do something big. So let us do something huge. Bring us to Staten Island on Sunday morning and let us help. Let us fill up the bags passed out at the expo with layers of warm clothes we were planning on tossing to the side of the bridge at the start of the marathon and any other relief items we can donate. Let us help donate, clean, assist those in need, and still be a part of the Starting Line of something big and something to be proud of. NYRR, spend the dollars you are wasting on keeping the expo open, the dollars wasted on paying additional employees to staff, MC, and do random tasks at an Expo for a race that is not happening, and use it to help those who lost their homes and businesses. Take the manpower of the volunteers working at the Expo and bring those hours out to Staten Island to put their time where is matters more.
UES: Rockaway Relief accepting donations at 85th & 2nd Ave at Molly Pitcher's bar. They really need hardware supplies (Hefty bags), as well as the use of a truck. They're also collecting food, clothing, toiletries, and cleaning supplies.
Volunteers needed today to help with clean up and debris removal from Seagate, this was one of the hardest hit areas and needs the most help.
Please go to Abraham Residence at 38-11 Surf Ave or 39-15 Neptune Ave in Brooklyn to our low income housing site to help our seniors clean up their homes. This was the evacuation zone and they need a lot of man power to get back up and running. It is cold out so please dress warm and bring a flash light (there is no power). If possible please bring water to give out to the seniors.
Drivers and cars with gas are also needed. We need help running errands and getting supplies. If you can bring your car please do so and help our seniors get access to food, water and medication.
Please feel free to just show up anytime before 3pm and look for Dena. If you have questions you may call Dena at 917-592-2456. The service is spotty so please only call if absolutely necessary and leave a message.
A group of volunteers in Connecticut would like to get to Long Beach to assist. Please see below and if you can help them arrange access to the area, let them know.
I am in touch with a caterer here in Brookfield Ct and a group of volunteers that would like to come your town and are IF FEASIBLE and bring hot food ( pizza, hot dog hamburgers, water ETC) and whatever else we can gather to you this Sunday for free. This is a small catering kitchen on a trailer that is present at the Ives Concert park in Danbury CT and other area functions. We would bring generators for cell charging etc. and as much food and usable supplies that we can gather between now an then. The sooner we know IF we can get in the area the more supplies and help we can try to obtain between now and then. Costco and other large stores are near by to contact. We don't want to interfere just help feed the residents and first responders. Please call at the numbers below so we can arrange access to the area. Ed Cavallo and friends 203 775-6145
Cell 203 417-7579
NEW YORK -- A Superstorm Sandy relief fund is being created just for residents of the hard-hit New York City borough of Staten Island, the AP reports.
|@ AARP : Double your impact. Donate to help #SandyVictims here: http://t.co/9hv4IiV2 and we will match your donation dollar for dollar. Pls RT|
A group of Yale students are selling T-shirts to raise money for Sandy relief; money raised will be donated to AmeriCares. Find more info at www.shirtsforsandy.com.
Hurricane Sandy has caused the cancellation of 300 Red Cross blood drives in 14 states, according to a statement the organization published Wednesday. And as the storm heads west, more cancellations are expected.
From NYC Parks:
Many of New York City's parks and playgrounds were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. If you would like to volunteer with NYC Parks to aid in clean up and recovery, please review the list of parks and playgrounds below that are in need of assistance this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Click the links below to sign up in your borough and be sure to check back for updates on other parks in need of volunteers! Bronx Van Cortlandt Park Orchard Beach
Click here to volunteer in the BronxBrooklyn Prospect Park McCarren Park
Click here to volunteer in BrooklynManhattan Happy Warrior Playground Annunciation Park Carl Schurz Park
Anne Loftus Playground (at Fort Tryon Park) Randall's Island (Friday and Saturday only) Click here to volunteer in ManhattanQueens (Friday and Saturday only) Brookville Park Baisley Pond Park
Click here to volunteer in Queens
Canned Goods Nonperishable Food Blankets Jackets Gloves Hats Socks Plates Cups Bowls Utensils Cleaning Supplies Brooms Mops Sponges Garbage Bags Water
You can make your donations at 100 Frost Street.
|@ ASPCA : NJ Volunteers Needed: Call 818-306-4800 email firstname.lastname@example.org for groups near U that need help @MuttShackAnimalResQ|
The following blood drives are being held today in New York State:
Kingston Donor Center 51 Albany Ave, Kingston, NY 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm
IBM East Fishkill Donor Center 2070 Rt 52, Bldg 320, Hopewell Junction, NY 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Elmsford Donor Center 525 Executive Blvd., Elmsford, NY 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
Upper East Side Donor Center 310 E. 67th St., NYC 9:00 am to 7:00 pm
New York Blood Center- Westbury 1200 Prospect Ave., Westbury, NY 9:00 am to 9:00 pm
Brooklyn Donor Center 120 Lawrence Street, Brooklyn, NY 8:30 am to 8:00 pm
Staten Island Donor Center 2791 Richmond Ave, Staten Island, NY 12:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Rockville Centre Donor Center 290 Sunrise Highway, Rockville Centre, NY 7:30 am to 7:30 pm
Lake Success Donor Center 2500 Marcus Ave., Lake Success, NY 7:30 am to 7:45 pm
Clark Rescue Squad 875 Raritan Road, Clark, NJ 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Rutgers University- Davidson Hall 104 Davidson Ave., Piscataway, NJ 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Poughkeepsie Galleria Mall 2001 South Road, Poughkeepsie 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
Grant D. Morse Elementary School 70 Harry Wells Road, Saugerties, NY 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Orange County 30 Harriman Drive, Goshen, NY 9:00 am to 7:00 pm
Sugar Loaf Engine Company 1408 Kings Highway, Chester, NY 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
Avon Products Midland & Peck Avenues, Rye, NY 8:00 am to 2:00 pm
SUNY New Paltz- Student Union 75 South Manheim Road, New Paltz, NY 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm
From the New York Blood Center:
NYBC is being forced to cancel blood drives and we have put out an urgent appeal to the public looking for large public spaces to host blood drives immediately. Normally, we run 45 blood drives a day, but since the storm we have cut that number dramatically. Please reach out to me as soon as possible if you or your organization can help. What we need:
· Large public space to host blood drive
· Assistance in getting the word to the public about blood drives in our area
· Help getting the word out to elected officials and the media about our appealPlease contact me if you are able to help. Thank you to those who have already stepped up and are running drives today and tomorrow. Wade Zamechek New York Blood Center 917-319-1314
Per JCorps Volunteering, seniors and families in Lower Manhattan are in need of help. Supplies needed included batteries (AA, C, D), water and nonperishable food (that doesn't need to be cooked).
You can sign up to volunteer Thursday noon-3 p.m. or Friday noon-3 p.m. here.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the American Red Cross announced that it has raised more than $11 million in donations. The money will go toward helping the millions of families displaced by storm. You can donate here.
Covenant House in New Jersey is working to provide a place to stay for homeless youth and orphans. Learn about their cause and how you can help here.
Craigconnects and Craig Newmark are matching donations to Sandy relief up to $25,000. Learn more about making a donation here.
At least 400 formerly homeless people, including families, are about to run out of food. There is also a food shortage in general in Lower Manhattan. Details here.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is helping with the response throughout impacted areas and is seeking donations for its efforts. You can visit the not-for-profit's website here to donate or simply text RESPONSE to 80888 to donate $10.
The evacuation center at Brooklyn Technical High School has 500+ seniors and people with disabilities on their way in, so there is an urgent need for volunteers. Overnight is especially important, from 11pm-8am.
Duties include administrative assistance, checking people into the shelter, company for people and providing assistance for people with their physical comfort.
There is no number to call but you can just pop in at the school, 29 Fort Greene Place in Brooklyn. The evacuation center is set up at the South Elliott/DeKalb entrance.
If you're involved in cleanup efforts on the ground, you may want to take a look at the Twitter hashtag #sandysafety. There are a number of great tips flowing there, including the one below.
|@ NYGovCuomo : Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwaters can contain sewage and chemicals #SandySafety|