For East Coast residents, last month’s Hurricane Irene has certainly left an indelible mark on the region. Many neighborhoods were inundated with water, flooding homes and making transportation by boat the norm. Along coastal areas, the harsh salt spray transformed lush lawns and leafy trees into brown, barren wastelands. Farmers, from North Carolina to Vermont, have lost acres of crops, with more than $55 million in losses in New York State alone. One Vermont farm even lost it all —fields, greenhouse, infrastructure, too. (See video below.) Even those who were lucky enough to escape the damage have felt Irene’s impact. Walking through farmers markets, there is less produce for sale — and when you go shopping for your Halloween pumpkin, expect to find a lot less options than in years past (and likely at a higher price).
With the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund running low, hovering near the $800 million mark (with a relief need around the country as high as six billion dollars), communities around the East Coast are banding together to raise money in a fun, grassroots way — by hosting get-togethers of all kinds, from fundraising dinner parties, to potluck gatherings.
In Vermont, Phish raised more than $1.2 million for Irene relief at a recent concert. Others are lending a hand in their own way, hosting pie bake-offs, like one community in New Hampshire’s Upper Valley is doing, or large, multi-course dinners on a farm by candlelight — and so can you.
In New York City, GrowNYC, the organization responsible for coordinating the many greenmarkets throughout the five boroughs, has launched a Dine-In Irene program in collaboration with Bloggers Without Borders. From September 26th to October 2nd, hosts of all kinds are encouraged to lend a hand by shopping the greenmarkets and hosting a get-together, be it a formal, sit-down dinner, a series of supper-club-style meals, or even just a casual, family-friendly potluck.
Not in New York City? You, too, can still lend a hand. Instead of a traditional dinner party, host a potluck party where everyone brings a dish and a donation. Stick with potluck classics like these, or opt for a theme to make the evening fun. Live in a close neighborhood? Rally neighbors and put together a hurricane relief block-party-style fundraiser. Offer music and games for the kids, or get a local band to come play, and ask each guest to bring something for guests to enjoy, as well as a non-perishable food item or pet food to donate. And for the reluctant host who has always wanted to start a supper club, there is no time like now to begin. Recruit three friends and together host a series of supper club dinners over the next month, donating a portion of the proceeds to disaster relief.
Not sure where to donate money? Check out Network for Good's site for information on what charities are responding. Alternatively, look at the local scale and contact regions that are hardest hit. For example, Vermont communities have assembled a list of what organizations in which towns are in need of help — and what exactly you can give for the greatest impact.
A look at the devastation at one Vermont farm.