Here You Come to Save the Day: A Quick and Easy Guide to Sandy Relief Efforts

Power's been restored to lower Manhattan. Almost all the subways are up and running. New York City is lurching back to work today. Most of it, at least. In some sections of the city and the surrounding area — the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, Coney Island in Brooklyn, several locations across Staten Island — the lights are still off, supplies are scarce, and residents and local volunteers are struggling to distribute aid. Here's how you can most effectively help.

If you live outside the tri-state area

Occupy Sandy, a relief effort spearheaded by Occupy Wall Street activists in concert with local churches and community groups, has been the single most visible and in many respects most effective relief group in New York City, especially on the hard-hit Rockaway Peninsula. They've set up an Occupy Sandy registry on Amazon where you can buy needed supplies directly. You can also send supplies directly — provided they're among those requested on the Amazon registry! — to:

Occupy Sandy
c/o The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew
520 Clinton Ave
Brooklyn, New York 11238

Though in-kind donations are most helpful, you can also donate cash directly to their efforts here. "The cash donations are being used for renting transportation and purchasing supplies at the hub sites as of now," InterOccupy.net's Joan Donovan says. "Later, it will be used for long term re-building."

You can also donate to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, the much-criticized Red Cross, and the United Way.

If you live in New York City or the surrounding area

This map and OccupySandy.org are both good resources for figuring out what sites need volunteers and donations (and, importantly, which items are needed — the drop-off locations aren't Salvation Army bins; they need specific items of clothing and supplies). Occupy activist Lopi LaRoe encourages people who want to help to check the website: needs are "fluctuating," she says, "and [we're] communicating amongst our group about what those needs are."

Generally speaking, the following items are always needed: cleaning supplies, flashlights, candles, diapers, baby wipes, and warm blankets.

If you're a new volunteer, and especially if you have a car with gas, Donovan suggests going to either the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew at 520 Clinton Avenue in Clinton Hill, or St. Jacobi Church at 5406 4th Ave in Sunset Park, currently Occupy Sandy's main distribution centers. From there, volunteers are being taken out to on-site distribution centers. (After a chaotic weekend featuring a huge influx of volunteers and supplies, Occupy Sandy is ironing out an effective coordination and distribution system for their relief efforts: "We are still working out our delivery schedules and routing for getting to the hardest hit areas," Donovan says. "There is some danger in sending out untrained persons to those places which are hardest hit.")

If you want to go to Staten Island ("Staten Island really needs help," LaRoe says), relief efforts are being coordinated at InterOccupy, HelpStatenIsland.com and the Staten Island Relief Efforts Facebook page. Volunteers are being taken at Christian Pentecostal Church, at 900 Richmond Rd. and Salem Church at 634 Clove Road.

Several Facebook pages have been set up to coordinate relief efforts and centralize requests for the Rockaways as well, including RockawayRelief and Rockaway Emergency Plan. Most accounts we've heard suggest that the east Rockaway Peninsula is among the hardest-hit and most underserved right now. Commenter thebobo writes that "Howard Beach and Broad Channel need a lot of help and aren't getting the coverage"; those interested in helping should visit the Howard Beach United Facebook page.

From commenter HeyThereKiller:

Red Hook wont have power for probably another week, which means that the largest public housing residence in Brooklyn won't have lights or heat. Red Hook Initiative (767 Hicks Street) is taking donations and organizing volunteer efforts with the National Guard and the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corp (402 Van Brunt Street).

If you're in New Jersey, InterOccupy and Occupy Sandy have a specific page for you.

If you can, give blood — we need it because some 300 blood drives were cancelled because of the storm. Not because everyone in New York is bleeding.

[image, of Sikh Community Center volunteers serving hot meals in the Far Rockaways, via AP]

Help us fill this guide out: share volunteer opportunities, relief efforts, and charity drives below.