I went into the city today, caught the 2:20 bus into the city and went to the Javits Center. There I was resoundly REJECTED. They are not taking any volunteers there who aren't official Salvation Army registered volunteers who have been called to come in.
So I took their advice and went down to the Salvation Army HQ on 14th Street. There they were taking volunteers on the fly without registration, they actually didn't have all that many people and had a lot of work to do. The HQ is the new drop-off point for all non-monetary donations and so they had truckload after truckload of stuff come in. Thousands of gallons of water, gatorade (we loaded around 1000 cartons of gatorade bottles, something like 8 to a carton, no exaggeration either - I have never seen so much cherry gatorade in my life, it put supermarkets to shame), juice, and other things. Canned food. Thousands of pounds of dog food (for the police/search dogs that are sniffing through the wreckage for people). Clothes. Blankets. Pillows. Socks. Lots of socks. Masks. Goggles. Work gloves. Toothbrushes. Teddy bears. All kinds of things, and lots of it. The SA HQ is also where they ship out deliveries of the materials to various sites around the city, and so we also had to load as well as unload.
I worked there from around 5 to 10:30 pm and in that time I think we unloaded 2 full big rigs, plus maybe a dozen cars and vans, and we also loaded up 2 big rigs worth of outgoing supplies. Not bad for 5 hours of work. The volunteers that were there came and went at about the same rate so we had a fairly constant stream of 30 or 40 people working at any time until later after dark. By the time I had left, though, they were down to maybe 20 people at most. I felt bad about leaving but my brother in law had wanted me to come back relatively soon, he had put the kids to bed and was lonely and depressed. He's coming down off this week, he was working non-stop since Wednesday and now that he's stopped he's been thinking about what he saw and also getting back to living a normal life and it's been hard for him. He had a rough time of it.
So anyways now I'm back. After lugging and handing off all of that stuff (I've probably had, literally, over a ton of materials pass through my arms - hell, I've lugged several hundred pounds of dog food* alone, and the water was heavy as hell, not to mention the gatorade and the rest...) now though I'm so sore it's hard to raise my arms over my head. Did it for almost 6 hours straight with very few breaks.
Still... I had forgotten how rewarding volunteering for stuff like this can be. Physically I feel like hell but inside I actually feel really good. I wish I could have worked at the heap but I will say I finally feel like I've done some genuine good. I look like hell too, my arms are all bruised and scratched like crazy, and I'm sweaty and gross. Oh well. :)
* - Why did I mention the dog food? Because I remember some of the many bags had the weight printed on them in big letters - 55 pounds. I probably lugged a dozen of those, plus many other similiarly sized dog food bags. Hell, I might've lugged a ton of dog food. :) I also lugged several hundred cases of gatorade, several hundred cases of bottled water, hundreds of other boxes of stuff... we were doing it fire drill line style for the most part, where each person hands/walks/throws it to the next in line. At time we were nice and tight and were just handing it but at one point we were so short of people that several of us were throwing the stuff to the next person - those were lighter boxes on that line though. :) I was amazed, though - we accomplished SO MUCH in such a short amount of time.