We Distributed 19,000 Meals Today. And Then — Light!

100 Staff, Volunteers Hand Out Food Delivered by FEMA

November 2, 2012 - By Henry Street Settlement

Late Thursday night, David Garza, Henry Street's Executive Director, got word from State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's office that a trailer filled with food — 19,000 meals from FEMA — would be pulling up in front of Settlement headquarters at 265 Henry Street. The blackout caused by Hurricane Sandy was moving into its fourth day, and supplies and patience were running low.

The next morning — today — more than 100 staff and volunteers worked to distribute the provisions to neighbors who had been without power for days. It took nearly the entire day to unload the 18-foot trailer; as quickly as boxes were removed they were placed in waiting vans, cars, on-hand trucks and even a bicycle trailer to be distributed from several Henry Street program sites and dozens of buildings and locations across the Lower East Side. The Settlement partnered with a number of its neighbors — including the Educational Alliance, University Settlement, GOLES, Gouverneur Hospital and others — to accomplish this goal.

The primary objective today was to go "vertical" to reach as many residents trapped on upper floors of apartment buildings. Teams of staff and volunteers walked up many dark flights of stairs (with only a flashlight to light the way) to reach those who needed sustenance. They delivered food and water to many very grateful individuals. In addition to our regular Meals on Wheels clients, other residents of local public housing were brought supplies. A couple of out-of-towners, very concerned about their elderly relatives on the Lower East Side, tweeted at Henry Street for help. Staff visited those individuals, and brought food and water, much to the relief of the family members.

"I am in awe and humbled by the extraordinary support extended during this crisis," said Garza. "Everyone — our elected officials, board members, staff, volunteers new and old, and those who donated supplies and money — helped us bring relief to our neighbors who, in normal circumstances are among the city's most vulnerable individuals."

At the end of a very long week, cheers rose up on the Lower East Side as power was restored and the neighborhood lit up in the late afternoon.

» See more photos