Occupy’s ‘wedding registry’ floods church with supplies

Down the line: Volunteers move relief supplies — purchased by do-gooders all over the world through an Amazon.com wedding registry — into the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Clinton Hill.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

A group of volunteers has collected something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue for Hurricane Sandy victims — by setting up an online wedding registry.

Three “Occupy Sandy” operatives working out of a Clinton Hill church have amassed 25,000 items worth more than $650,000, and are distributing them in the Sandy-ravaged Rockaways and Coney Island — all thanks to an online hub they set up as an Amazon wedding registry on Nov. 3.

“We kind of tapped into this well of human empathy all over the country,” said John Heggestuen, 25, who moved to Crown Heights from Minneapolis three days before Hurricane Sandy hit.

Heggestuen, Alex Nordenson, and Katherine Dolan hatched Occupy Sandy’s soon-to-be-famous wedding registry and almost immediately began accepting deliveries to the church’s basement.

By the first few days of the next week, it was clear they were going to need some more space.

“I think it was when the four UPS trucks pulled up at the same time,” said Rev. Chris Ballard of the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew on where the wears were being stored.

The delivery trucks are routinely showing up full, five a day.

On a recent visit, church’s pews had been transformed into supermarket aisles of vital gear — batteries, blankets, diapers, toothpaste — all organized by type.

Bearing blankets: Nicolette Carothers of Manhattan organizes supplies at the Occupy Sandy hub at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Clinton Hill.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

“Within two days we had such a response it just expanded,” said Rev. Michael Sniffen, the church’s rector. “It was five pews, then 10 pews, then 20. And then the entire church!”

Stocks are dished out to Occupy coordinators and volunteers in affected areas in the Rockaways, Coney Island and Red Hook, where a ground team has been tracking resident-specific needs.

And as more things become needed, the registry is updated.

To help out, the United Parcel Service had donated the services of its trucks and drivers to haul loads out to the the Rockaways last weekend, Heggestuen said.

The church’s leaders said they were happy to have their house of god stuffed to the brim with volunteers and relief items, but the pews must be clear on Sundays.

“This is our worship,” said Ballard. “There was no hesitation on our part. The volunteers here are really amazing and have been really accommodating.”

To purchase goods for the group’s relief efforts, visit www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wedding/32TAA123PJR42/ref=cm_wed_vv_page_2?ie=UTF8&page=2&sort=status.

Or, volunteer at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew [520 Clinton Ave. between Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue in Clinton Hill (718) 638–0686, www.interoccupy.net].

Church or supermarket?: Volunteers for Occupy Sandy transformed the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Clinton Hill into a hub for supplies for hurricane victims — but they had to clear the pews before Sunday.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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