As a child, Direct Energy employee Leah Barton loved visiting New York City, marveling at the hustle and bustle and densely-packed skyscrapers. After Hurricane Sandy hit, Barton was struck by news of high-rises still without power and heat. Seniors, children, single moms, and those least able to cope with disaster were trapped on high floors without elevator access, food, or even water as temperatures dropped.
New Yorkers sprang into action, with neighbors helping neighbors and former members of the Occupy Wall Street movement reshaping themselves as relief workers in Occupy Sandy. “I was inspired by their direct action,” says Barton. “I had to do something.”
However, Barton lives in Houston, far from affected areas. Seeing online appeals for blankets, food, and other basic supplies, she headed to Amazon and stumbled upon the Occupy Sandy “Wedding” Registry, a way for donors to send much-needed items to Brooklyn, NY. “With Amazon’s extensive inventory and powerful distribution network, the potential was huge,” Barton explains.
Barton saw an opportunity to extend the concept into New Jersey and quickly created the Occupy Sandy NJ Wedding Registry. Partnering with Jersey City Sandy Recovery, a group of volunteers who had set up operations in the historic Barrow Mansion, she started spreading the word.
Response has been tremendous. After just over a week, the registry has collected over $100,000 worth of donations including 29,000 diapers, 5,000 batteries, 1,000 toothbrushes, 900 bottles of cleaning supplies, 800 blankets, 200 coats, 30 generators, and more. “I’ve learned a lot about managing inventory, social media, and disaster response!” exclaims Barton.
Says Barton, “There’s still a long way to go. Coastal areas are devastated. Two weeks after the storm, 25% of residents in affected New York City Housing Authority buildings are still without heat. But we can all do our part.”