I spent a few days in New York last week and on the last day, drove south with George to visit what New York’s ABC dubbed, the “Camp of Kindness” in a most moving short news clip. We spent part of the morning and afternoon at the “Kindness Kitchen” before braving New York traffic to get to La Guardia for a mid afternoon flight.
I was excited as we plotted our course and made our plans. Whereas we could maneuver around NYC without a car, getting 60 plus miles to southern New Jersey from Westchester County, Rye, New York would be a challenge on public transportation so a rental car was arranged. Upon arriving at Enterprise rent a car, we were informed all cars are on hold and only released to those with insurance claims. Hmm Sandy strikes again. It was not business as usual in New York City. Another Sandy evidence was the heaps of trash through the entire city.
Finally, a car secured we somehow managed several dicey interstate exchanges to get to Union Beach. As we approached we saw very little damage and wondered just how far inland Sandy had penetrated. However, it didn’t take long as we approached the shoreline to see the guts of houses out on the street.
You would think beach property like Union Beach, with its crisp, late-fall view of Manhattan across the scenic bay, would have been grabbed up by the wealthy high-rises or uptown condos, but Union Beach is surprisingly a middle class town of 6,250 people. 91% caucasian, the median salary for men is $55k and for women $36k. Hmm. 5% are below poverty line ($11,534 for singles and $23,050 for a family of four). Houses in the town are modest, some with “dingy”-type boats. Even the coastline area, with a ravaged board walk, did not seem like a high tourist place. I think it’s safe to say not a lot of these folks have the disposable income to simply gut their home and get it back to code in 30 days, a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) requirement in order to prevent your house from being condemned and torn down.
The Camp of Kindness feeds many hundreds of homeowners and volunteers who have come to help residents gut their houses. A beautiful mish-mash of humanity!
We were charmed by the site! Imagine – the village fire department gave up their space to the Camp of Kindness. In the most inspired Rainbow fashion, a tent city sprang up overnight and began feeding people within 24 hours. The main kitchen sits right next to the garage housing the old fire truck now out of commission (and rumor has it, Ranibows are hoping to donate money to put it back into commission).
It was so fun to see our Organic Valley bus and refrigerated van parked on the site. And it was rewarding to know much of the kitchen and tents came from CROPP as well as lots of great food. I know that I speak for all of the us when I express the wish, dream, that we could get good food to everyone. But supporting this rapid response kitchen is an OK stand in!
I want to end by saying how wonderful it is to work in and around the Rainbow family. Such good spirit and helpfulness. All “can do” and if you think about it, over 40 years feeding people, building instant kitchens — these folks are pros and proved it in Waveland and again at Union Beach. And the food was delicious! Blessings on the Rainbow Family and the Camp of Kindness!