Some of the biggest names in rock ’n’ roll were on the bill for the nationally televised “12-12-12” concert benefiting victims of Hurricane Sandy, but the charity in charge of distributing donations has been thinking small when it comes to doling out the US$50 million-plus raised by Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and other stars.
More than 160 organizations and counting have gotten shares of the Sandy relief funds collected so far by the Robin Hood Foundation and many have been the type of small, grassroots groups that seemed to be everywhere on the devastated New York and New Jersey coastlines in the initial weeks after the storm.
Some of the grants have been small, too, but the foundation’s staff said each has been designed to make a difference on a human scale.
The list of grant recipients includes places like the Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church, of Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, which got US$25,000 so it could install showers and beds for the stream of volunteers it has been deploying to help rebuild damaged homes.
Numerous food pantries got grants to help serve thousands of hot meals. Another group got US$25,000 for making storage space available to families that need a temporary place to put salvaged possessions.
Robin Hood gave a US$100,000 grant to an operation called Rockaway Relief, hastily put together after the storm by James Brennan, a San Diego nightclub and restaurant owner who grew up on New York City’s flood-ravaged Rockaway peninsula.
In the days after the catastrophe in late October, Brennan hired tractor-trailers to send space heaters, water pumps and generators into the disaster zone. Then, he rallied volunteers to help rip out soggy walls and furniture. Since then, the group has repaired plumbing, electrical and heating systems in close to 100 homes, he said.
“This was really way over my head,” Brennan said. “But there is so much more that these people need. I could probably rattle off 500 families right now that don’t have washer and dryers, and have no way of paying for them.”
The foundation gave another US$150,000 to the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), which has been dispatching home builders almost daily to New York City’s Staten Island and the Rockaways all the way from Pennsylvania.
Volunteers, mostly rural farmers, leave Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, at 4am, put in a full day mucking out homes and hanging drywall in the city, and then make the 275km drive back to Pennsylvania at night, said MDS executive director Kevin King. So far, they have worked on 117 houses.
“We are looking to set up a long-term camp,” King said.