You might be surprised at what has become a lauded and effective relief organization for victims of Superstorm Sandy: Occupy Wall Street. The social media savvy that helped Occupy protesters create a grass-roots global movement last year—one that ultimately collapsed under its leaderless format—is proving to be a strength as members fan out across New York to deliver aid including hot meals, medicine, and blankets. The group has dozens of relief centers across the city and a stream of volunteers who are shuttled out to the most desperate areas. It is partnering with local community and volunteer organizations.
The relief effort started at St. Jacobi Church in Brooklyn the day after the storm, where Occupiers set up a base of operations and used social media like Twitter and Facebook to spread the word. There is a sense of camaraderie reminiscent of Zuccotti Park, as young people with scruffy beards and walkie-talkies plan the day's activities. Donations come in by the truckload and are sorted in the basement, which looks like a clearinghouse for every household product imaginable, from canned soup and dog food to duvet covers. "You see a need and you fulfill it," says Occupier Diego Ibanez, 24. "There's not a boss to tell you that you can't do this or you can't do that. Zuccotti was one of the best trainings in how to mobilize so quickly."