Televised and published pictures plus personal appeals of Hurricane Sandy victims in New York and New Jersey touched the hearts of Shelter Islanders who generously filled truckloads of clothing and other goods bound for Island Park and Long Beach last week. But the word from the Federal Emergency Management Agency now is “stop.”
It’s not that the victims of Sandy have their needs met, but that FEMA has strict rules what can and can’t be accepted.
“We stopped taking things now,” said Marie Eiffel whose boutiques on Shelter Island and in Sag Harbor have been drop-off centers for goods that Sweet Tomato’s Jimi Rando trucked to neighborhoods devastated by Sandy.
“It was great,” Ms. Eiffel said. “We did get to those people before FEMA stepped in and it was a great turnout,” she said of the goods contributed by her friends and neighbors to boost the relief effort. Not only did Ms. Eiffel make her stores a drop-off point, but she contributed some of her own store inventory.
Shelter Island Police Officers Tom Cronin and Terrance LeGrady have suspended their efforts launched by Officer Cronin’s wife Susan, who posted a Face Book plea for contributions.
“We brought up a huge load and it was gone in 48 hours,” Officer Cronin said.
Officer Cronin said he understands FEMA’s need to coordinate what’s coming in and where it’s being distributed. At the same time, he resists the FEMA plea for people to give money, saying he prefers to know exactly what is being received by disaster victims.
Cash is the most efficient method of donating, according to the FEMA website, because it gives agencies flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources. Cash also saves staff from sorting through donations in order to redirect them to where they’re needed.
FEMA suggests contributing through various trusted organizations in the community, including church groups. And in addition to national groups like the Red Cross, each state maintains its own list of volunteer organizations that spring into action when a disaster hits.
A community in need can “become easily overwhelmed with the amount of generous people who want to help,” according to FEMA. “Contacting and affiliating with an established organization will help to ensure that you are appropriately trained to respond in the most effective way.”