Baby Buggy has donated over 18,580 items through our hurricane relief efforts to families in the Rockaways, Coney Island, Staten Island, and affected parts of New Jersey. Donations have included everything from winter gear, blankets and pack'n'plays to diapers, formula and baby food. We are also providing coloring books, puzzles and small toys to help keep children occupied during this scary and overwhelming time.
We have been coordinating donations with our contacts at organizations within our service network serving families who have been impacted by the hurricane; this way we know the families specific needs and we know our donations will be able to reach them. The needs are tremendous and the stories are heartbreaking, but we have heard that Baby Buggy donations perfectly fill the gap of what other organizations have been able to provide; many critical items have been provided for adults, but few items have reached for babies and children.
The following is a report from Baby Buggy's Executive Director regarding her visit to the Rockaways on Friday to deliver donations to our client families:I went to the former site of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York’s Early Head Start program/Father’s First in Rockaway Beach yesterday, along with two VNS nursing homes in Far Rockaway. It's heart-breaking: the community is now on day 12 without power and their subway line was destroyed. Kids are being bussed toLong Island or far-away parts of Queens or their parents aren't sending them to school. One VNS staffer showed us a hammer he hides in his jacket because many people are getting jumped in his building. An elderly man, Bernie, told me he wouldn't leave his cold nursing home because two of his friends went to a shelter and they were attacked. And the Early Head Start site we have been proud to support over the past two years was flooded and they do not know if they can rebuild. That means that mothers who have to work no longer have a means of affordable daycare.
We distributed clothing, baby food, formula, diapers, water and gear to the families served by Early Head Start/Fathers First. One mother I met, Lisa, has a newborn in addition to a four-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son. She is staying with eight other people in apartment because they have too much water damage and mildew in their own home. When I asked her son what he needs he said, “a bed.” I talked to Anna who showed up with her 2-year-old. She also has a husband and teenage son. They have been doubled up in a small apartment in Brooklyn and they don’t know if any of their furniture or clothing is salvageable or has been looted. Another mother showed up with her two-year-old, Aqwasi. When I asked her what else she needs beside the clothing, pull-ups, etc. that we provided her with, she said she needs playdough, coloring books and new puzzles. Her son wrote on the walls the other day because he was so fed up with “nothing to do for two weeks.”
The VNS nurses and support staff were amazing. I kept asking them what they need, but they were more concerned about their clients. In the meantime, Sharon has a 2-year-old; she started crying when she told me she couldn't buy eggs to make her a cake (both Key Foods are closed) for her birthday this week. And Stephanie's brother took her five kids to Brooklyn because her housing project has serious problems with looting. She said she misses her kids, but she has to work and protect her home. Stephanie said that neighbors who once looked after each other are now stealing from each other. After we distributed donations to the client families, I saw the VNS staff standing in the Red Cross line so that they could get warm food for their own families.
As we traveled to the different sites, the smell of rotting garbage and mildew was omnipresent. Cars that were floating during the storm are now “parked” in lawns or in the middle of streets. One of the nursing homes said thatrats were a serious problem. I saw the local pharmacist distributing meds to patients from a box on the corner because his store was all but destroyed. Sand is blowing all over the streets so people have to wear sunglasses even when the sun is not out; one of the VNS staffers told me that she feels like she’s in Afghanistan given the sand storms and tanks in the streets. I posted a number of pictures and videos on the Baby Buggy Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Baby-Buggy/56032852023#!/pages/Baby-Buggy/56032852023
On the positive side: there were many groups providing hot meals for adults so grown-ups didn't seem hungry and the temperatures have been rising. Also, we saw several trucks of National Guard troops driving onto to the peninsula, so I am hopeful that they will help to keep the peace. (They changed the curfew from 7pm to 4:30 this yesterday).
Baby Buggy is going to get more baby food, diapers, water, formula, toys, art supplies and feminine supplies to the moms next week. If power is still out, we will also get more batteries and flashlights to them. AND, we are going tocompile donations for the amazing VNS nurses and social workers who have been working so hard for their community.
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