How to use a wedding registry to help people survive and rebuild: The Hurricane Sandy Wedding Registry

The Hurricane Sandy Wedding Registry.jpg

Since last Saturday I've been watching something miraculous unfold long distance. Over Twitter and emails, texts and phone calls, I've witnessed my son, Alex Nordenson, and two friends, Katherine Dolan and John Heggestuen, (all live in Brooklyn, NY) go from being Brooklynites who were inconvenienced by Hurricane Sandy but generally unscathed to becoming Metro citizens who have spearheaded an enormous donation drive for those who did not fare so well with Sandy.

That part's not the miracle.

The generosity of people is the miracle, the bubbling joy this effort is fueling, the sheer number of people who are participating, the speed with which the message to give is replicating. It's gone viral. Search Twitter or Google for "Sandy Registry" or #sandyregistry or @sandyregistry and you'll see what I mean. 

The giving drive they've created is this: an online "wedding registry" on Amazon for Hurricane Sandy victims. They are working with the nonprofit "Occupy Sandy" to provide specific needed items directly to those who need them. All purchases are sent to the Occupy Sandy relief center at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn and then delivered daily by volunteers. 

Here's the link:

They are continually updating the list to reflect what’s needed in real time, and because they’re working with volunteers in daily contact with the people in need they can be spot on with requests. For example, the registry first emphasized flashlights and batteries, then blankets, diapers, and items for water clean up, such as hoses and pumps and mops and rubber gloves. Now the temperature is dropping and there’s demolition to be done, so stop by the registry today and you’ll find requests for sleeping bags and long underwear, sledge hammers and crow bars, as well as other items for the long haul ahead. Yesterday someone purchased the 6 laptops that were requested to help people fill out requests for FEMA assistance for faster processing.

Here’s just a small sampling of what’s been purchased so far: hundreds and hundreds of fleece and wool blankets; hundreds of sleeping bags; more than 300 canisters of baby formula; nearly 500 boxes of disposable gloves; more than 600 48-pack battery boxes; mobile hotspots; generators and water pumps; safety glasses. To see the growing list of purchases, go to the registry and sort by “Purchase Status.” The numbers are amazing and continually increasing!

In the last 24 hours alone, 1,000 orders have come in.

The team encourages registry buyers to use expedited shipping so that items arrive while the need is pressing.  For those who have Amazon Prime, 1 to 2 day shipping of qualified items is free, but not everyone has Prime and many needed items don’t qualify. The team has been reaching out to Amazon to chip in with free shipping but so far Amazon isn’t talking.

Jeff Bezos, if you’re reading this, please give my son a call. 

This registry is getting attention. Journalists are interested. Here’s a piece from The Atlantic and another from ABC News. Here’s a video from Mashable. I’ve even heard that some “experts” have been reaching down to ask the team for info and advice. A similar registry has now been started for New Jersey and that one is in contact with the original.

This strategy, with its heavy use of social media, could very well change the face of disaster relief.

There’s something very personal about this way of giving. You can select a canister of baby formula and package of diapers and picture a grateful mother opening her arms to them half a country away. You might choose to forgo buying a CD for yourself on Amazon and instead head to the registry and send a tool belt to someone rebuilding what they lost, or put the purchase of the complete series of your favorite TV show on hold while you click and buy a wheelbarrow. 

Follow the Sandy Wedding Registry on Twitter @sandyregistry.