It’s the question New Yorkers who live in areas untouched by Superstorm Sandy have been asking since day 1: "What can I do to help?"
Across the country, Americans have been watching the devastation all over New York and New Jersey feeling helpless to reach out to those in need. Victims in Staten Island, Jersey Shore, Breezy Point, Toms River, the Far Rockaway beaches left without homes, power and food.
Among those Americans, neighbors in the northern side of Manhattan, untouched by Sandy, get their manicures, chat at coffee shops and have dinner out. But don’t let the casual continuance of life fool you.
A bar on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, like many fellow residents, decided not to stand by and see its neighbors suffer in the frigid weather, homeless and without resources. Jeremy Wladis, owner of Firehouse Tavern got together with friend Mike Klein who had toured devastated areas of Staten Island and the Rockaways, and they put together a plan using Wladis’ restaurant.
“It was so devastated out there,” says Klein. “we came back and said ‘We gotta do something here, people want to help’ and it started.”
“We’re so isolated here on the Upper West Side,” says Wladis. “It’s almost like nothing happened.”
Klein teamed up with Wladis and started a Facebook, Twitter and word-of-mouth campaign that reached hundreds of Upper West Side residents who came out in droves to Wladis’ restaurant. Within minutes, the corner of 85th and Columbus Avenue was stacked 3 feet high for half a block with bags of clothing, baby supplies, food, water and toiletries.
“It’s unbelievable how many people came out,” said Klein. “Literally, 1,000 people have come out.”
Klein estimates approximately 25 trucks -- including trucks sent by the city and FEMA -- have delivered urgent supplies to affected areas and the Firehouse Facebook page estimates 1,500 boxes of donations have been packed, sorted and delivered to those in need, thanks to donations and volunteers in the area.
In one of his many regular press conferences, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this about New Yorkers: “The nation knows New Yorkers as tough. We are tough. But we’re also sweet and we’re also kind and we’re also generous and we’re also giving. And you can see that all across the state today.”
Klein, Wladis and their hundreds of volunteers are proving the governor’s words true and keeping their neighbors a little warmer these days.
Read more: Volunteers needed -- how you can help