What to Expect When Volunteering at a Sandy Shelter

If you have any interest in volunteering at the Park Slope Armory (361 15th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues) or other nearby shelters but aren’t sure what to expect, a friend of BB’s–the significant other of BB contributor Kate Hooker–worked both overnight shifts last night between midnight and 8am, which is when volunteers are needed the most. He didn’t email or call in advance, he just arrived (at 8pm, actually, but they sent him away because that shift was full. There are two overnight shifts–midnight to 4 am and 4 am to 8 am).

Around the time he showed up, hundreds of new patients had just arrived from flooded elder care centers and mental hospitals in the Rockaways. He said there are around 540 patients total, and there was zero training for him, but that may be because he was on the overnight shift. (When he left at 8 am there was a formal briefing going on for new volunteers.) He spent a lot of time sorting patient records and medications–bags and bags of binders of records that had to be organized. That part is probably done now, though.

If you happen to have any type of nursing, mental health, or medical training, there is a desperate need for those services.  A lot of the volunteer shift is spent helping people in and out of their beds, helping them go to the bathroom, etc. That said–it’s a good idea to bring your own bottle of Purell.

There is a staff room with a bathroom and locker room and cots in the back. Also there is coffee, drinks, bagels, pizza, etc. on hand to eat. There are two volunteers guarding the back area and you can leave your stuff there when you are volunteering.

Meanwhile, Tip Sheet Editor Casey Acierno spent yesterday volunteering at John Jay HS after seeing the call for volunteers on Twitter. She went through a 20-minute training (that consisted of just watching a video) and then got assigned some tasks. Primarily, she ended up helping with the clothing drive–running clothes from the drop-off point to the sorting room, accepting donations, and taking names and numbers for people who wanted to volunteer. (“We had a completely overwhelming response on both donations and people who wanted to help out. Completely incredible and so moving,” she said.)

She reports the same situation regarding food and volunteers guarding the break room, but adds that keeping your phone on you is a good idea–what the shelters need vary from minute to minute, so it’s great to be able to reach out to your networks ASAP and try to get resources.

When she left John Jay yesterday, they were collecting any donations people had for a Halloween party they’re throwing for the kids, but she’s unsure if they are still collecting.

If you have any personal tips to share below, please do. And let us know if there are any other shelters in need of volunteers or donations. We have more Sandy resources here.