I often think of heroes as far-off figures. They barely even register as people to me. They're martyrs, legends who fight for what's right in the world. And really, they have nothing to do with me. But the truth of the matter is that our communities are full of these heroes. And through Hurricane Sandy, they were the ones standing for those of us who couldn't.
Shelters around the region extended their service to 24-hours a day- The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington's five shelters held 1,101 residents during the storm. Carpenter's Shelter, which provides nighttime shelter every winter starting November 1st, even opened a week early to accommodate dozens of guests. FACETS sheltered around 50 guests in Fairfax, Virginia.
DC Central Kitchen and Miriam's Kitchen were some of the few food banks that stayed open during the storm. Miriam's Kitchen sent out this matter-of-fact message on Twitter saying, "Miriam's Kitchen will be open again at 6:30AM Tuesday morning--staff are sleeping onsite to ensure we can open for our guests."
DC Central Kitchen not only stayed open to guests- just as they did during Snowmageddon 2010- but also ensured they could continue providing food for other shelters. Michael Curtin of DC Central Kitchen said, "We are prepping shelf-stable meals for the shelters that do not have refrigeration and cooking facilities so that they will be set at least through tomorrow."
At noon on Tuesday, I found out DC Central Kitchen was completely full of volunteers. I live just a few blocks away and no one had lost power in our neighborhood- yet the Capitol Hill community had left their warm homes to help their neighbors stay safe and well fed.
The staff of these institutions, who sleep in shelters for days to ensure they can stay open, and the volunteers, who leave their homes and walk through the cold and rain to see if they can lend a hand, aren't far-off figures. They are people you see every day, members of your community.
The community part is possibly the most important. Each of the above organizations has done an amazing job at galvanizing the community around them. Their infrastructure, kitchens, and welcoming staff made it possible for individuals to jump into action without hesitation. Certainly the altruistic energy of those who leapt into action is truly awe-inspiring- but we should always remember the power of community-building to turn that energy into real results. To turn people into heroes.
If you'd like to donate items to Hurricane Sandy relief, Miriam's Kitchen is still in desperate need of men's pants all sizes, new men's socks and underwear, toothbrushes and toothpaste, ground coffee, canned tuna and sleeping bags (subzero preferred). Please consider donating and contact