They are thousands-strong and growing: entering devastated neighborhoods yet to see outside help from established aid organizations.
They are staffing donation drop off sites, running mobile food kitchens and delivering hot meals. They are distributing food and supplies to the stranded, locating trapped seniors, and aiding clean-up efforts.
In short, they are helping some of New York's most vulnerable right now, and the work being done is simply breathtaking. And that work is growing by the hour.
Loosely organized under Occupy Sandy, Occupy activists have, in conjunction with 350.org and Recovers.org, created in very short order a massive, malleable volunteer network that is reaching untold numbers of New Yorkers still in the dark and cold.
They have established donation drop off sites in Rockaway, Coney Island, Staten Island, Chinatown, the Upper East Side, the Lower East Side, Harlem and all across Brooklyn.
And the volunteer opportunities, which you can find here and here, are just as intense as they are varied.
Lisa Sikorski, one of many activists coordinating supply distribution efforts, described their efforts:
"We've been getting tons of donations. This is all donations in here," Sikorski said, pointing at tables. "We also gave away a ton yesterday. Stuff has gone out to the Rockaways, Sunset Park, Coney Island. There are people coming in with rolling carts, school communities have come up with truckloads of stuff and unloaded it. This is all community-driven donation right now, all of it."
People beyond those being directly helped are beginning to notice Occupy's incredible work. While snarky and backhanded, Bob Hardt of NY1 had this to say
It's a bad sign for the world that Occupy Wall Street and a Sikh group from Queens are doing a better job at distributing hot food than the largest international relief group in the world.
And independent journalist Sarah Jaffe Tweeted this not long ago:
Now, make no mistake. The Red Cross and FEMA are operating shelters, food kitchens and distributing supplies as well. My point here is not to malign them.
My point? To shine a light on the incredible work Occupy activists are doing in locations where aid organizations have yet to lay roots. And to shine a light on the work they will continue to be doing, perhaps with your help.
You can volunteer here. or here.
Volunteer opportunities are expanding by the hour at all of the volunteer and drop-off centers Occupy Sandy is operating throughout New York. Visit here for details or view this Google map showing new opportunities.
Below is a look at just one of those centers located in Sunset Park (thanks to noweasels):