After tropical storms Irene and Lee devastated the area, the United Way of the Greater Capital Region created an emergency and disaster relief fund, where people could donate money to help flood-damaged communities.
The fund is still active and now donors can designate their gifts to a new cause: superstorm Sandy relief efforts.
“The magnitude of what happened downstate mandated that we get together and help,” said Brian Hassett, president of the United Way of the Greater Capital Region.
The money donated to the United Way of the Greater Capital Region is directed to the United Way of New York City, which so far has raised $1.9 million from corporations and $200,000 from online donors.
Throughout the Capital Region, organizations both large and small are raising money and supplies for downstate areas hard hit by Sandy. They say that local residents are eager to help for two reasons: the proximity of New York City, and heightened awareness of the effects of tropical storms and hurricanes due to Irene and Lee.
“We all just went through this last year,” said Caroline Boardman, communications director for the Northeastern New York chapter of the American Red Cross. She said donations are pouring in from companies and individuals throughout the Capital Region.
“This was a massive storm, and we will be providing people with food, supplies, shelter and emotional support for weeks to come,” Boardman said. “We believe our relief operations are going to cost at least $100 million and could go higher depending on the needs.”
As of Wednesday, the American Red Cross had raised $138 million in donations, pledges and contributions to help families. About $500,000 in pledges has come from the Capital Region, Boardman said.
The Red Cross has also sent about 14 volunteers from the Capital Region to Long Island, Staten Island and New Jersey. Some are volunteering in shelters, while others are delivering meals. Some are nurses, and some are providing mental health counseling and support.
Hassett said the United Way wants to make it easy for people to contribute to relief efforts. People can donate to the emergency and disaster relief fund, but they can also call the organization’s 2-1-1 help line, which provides information on local and national relief efforts. Donations to United Way can be made directly through the website, or as a payroll deduction.
Reports have suggested that the number of large storms hitting the Northeast will increase due to climate change, and Hassett said he expects emergency and disaster relief to become a bigger part of the organization’s mission as a result.
years of work
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany expects helping the victims of Hurricane Sandy to be a long-term project.
“There are going to be significant needs two to three years out,” said Mary Olsen, director of disaster response for Catholic Charities. “You’re rebuilding lives.”
The organization is collecting money to support relief efforts in New York City, Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey, and also expects to send volunteers to affected areas, Olsen said. So far, Capital Region residents have donated more than $50,000.
“I predict that well over $1 million will come in,” Olsen said. “People are generous, and they understand that when they send money here, it will go right to the affected areas.”
Earlier this month, Albany Diocese Bishop Howard Hubbard announced that a special collection for those victimized by Hurricane Sandy would be taken during November.
He wrote that “based upon inquiries we are receiving, I believe people are looking for a vehicle to our brothers and sisters in need.”
Olsen said that for many people, Hurricane Sandy hits home, especially because the rebuilding effort for Irene and Lee is ongoing.
“I think we’re all breathing a sigh of relief,” she said.
Churches, businesses and non-profit organizations are also raising money.
On Friday, Mazzone Hospitality in Scotia announced that it is collecting pajamas and books for children affected by the storm. The items will be distributed by the Pajama Program, a New York City nonprofit organization that gives pajamas and books to children in need.
“Our neighbors to the south have been devastated by Hurricane Sandy and we want to help children get off to a good start on the long road to recovery,” said Mazzone Hospitality owner Angelo Mazzone, in a statement. “Warm pajamas are in great need as nighttime temperatures dip below freezing, and books provide children with a positive distraction during this difficult time.”
Donations can be made through the end of the year at the following Mazzone properties: the Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia; the Hilton Garden Inn in Clifton Park, where Angelo’s Prime Bar & Grill is located; and Saratoga National Golf Course in Saratoga Springs, home to Prime at Saratoga National.