Streets of Coney Island are now deserted post Sandy.
"Hours have passed and it seems like this line gets longer and longer". These are the words that I spoke to a colleague as we walked around a neighborhood and emergency pantry in Coney Island.
The community we visited is still without power, and the citizens who call this community home are lined up at food trucks and pantries to get much-needed food. When we visit communities impacted by Sandy, we visit our member agencies and others who could make great on-the-ground partners. Today, we learned that not only has our member lost their site due to flooding, today is their last day in the school that they've called home for the past three weeks. With the move will come a loss of the generators supplying the only source of indoor light that we've seen for blocks.
From a long lens you notice the darkness, the fact that NO stores are open for business and that lots of people are milling around. A closer view let's you hear children who are not happy that they have to use the public, portable toilets with the adjacent sinks...again. The short view shows you that the mothers milling about are dragging carts, trying to determine the location of the next service site. They're doing this because the lack of power and phone service means that charities don't have an ability to provide mass communication.
As we say good bye to the program's manager, I notice that the first and second sites have something major in common - the scent of MOLD is clear. I remember it from every home I entered in Biloxi and New Orleans when I worked on homes during Hurricane Katrina. I'm not the only one to smell it, but our members and the city of New York find themselves setting up where they can in order to serve those in need.
What's very clear is that people are so very grateful for the help, but they are also very tired. You can feel it when talking to them. I'm proud that the food being provided is from Food Bank, but I’m incredibly frustrated that we're still needed and that these families still have to go through this. To give these families a bit of a reprieve, we'll be sending buses here to take them to lunch and dinner on Wednesday, November 21, as part of the special “Our Table Is Yours” event for seniors and families throughout New York City who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy. The event, hosted by Food Network, Cooking Channel and Southern Wine & Spirits of America, will benefit Food Bank For New York City’s ongoing emergency response efforts in the wake of Sandy.
While my frustration and that of our supporters is real, we're also comforted by knowing that we can do anything that reminds families that they are cared for and that people are thinking about them. The view from where I sit allows me to see people operating at their very best. Ensuring that the Food Bank plays any part of that makes me feel incredibly blessed.
Margarette Purvis is the President and CEO of Food Bank For New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @FoodBank_Prez