Lomax, who had been going door-to-door feeding homebound residents in Brooklyn public housing projects and making sure their diabetic supplies stayed properly chilled, found it only natural that the hospitality industry stepped up to help.
"We're people people. This is what we do, and we do it with a smile on our face," he said. "And feeding people truly changes things."
Lomax and his fellow members of the U.S. Bartenders Guild communicate via text messages and follow the #occupysandy hashtag on Twitter and coordinate with the Red Hook Initiative to find out what supplies and resources are needed where. "I tell my friends 'Sleep tonight, volunteer tomorrow and brunch when you're dead,'" Lomax quipped. "And donations of coffee would be super welcome."
And while Occupy Sandy and the Red Hook Initiative can mobilize a volunteer army in 140 characters, hospitality pros can help with the logistics of plating hundreds of hot meals at a time. Though power has been restored to nearly half of the Red Hook Houses, and the New York City Housing Authority promises heat within the next few days, Judelman remained dubious. He mused over the logistics of serving a seated Thanksgiving dinner to several thousand people and marveled over the Home Depot-purchased turkey fryer the Food Flood team was using to keep the soup piping hot in the crisp November air. He also spoke of Occupy's desire to establish a more permanent kitchen in the area once the immediate need was past. The teams exchanged information and made plans to join forces for their future efforts.
And as for that soup: Erma Ribera, a Red Hook Houses resident who had just had her power and water restored, shyly accepted a cup of the ribollita from a Food Flood Volunteer as she waited in line for pupusas. A smile broke out across her face. She kissed her fingers and blew it toward the team, "This is beautiful soup. God bless you. God bless you."
And with that, warm soup was suddenly the hottest commodity in cold, dark Red Hook.
According to Judelman and Aviram, the greatest needs in their kitchen are for hot, prepared vegetables and protein, lidded take-out containers, food for kitchen staff and hot coffee. Donations can be dropped off at Calvary Baptist Church of Red Hook at 773 Hicks Street in Brooklyn by 11 a.m. for lunch or 4 p.m. for dinner.
Hot food donations for the Red Hook Initiative can be coordinated through the contacts available on their website: http://rhicenter.org/tag/hurricane-relief/
Occupy Sandy needs for additional disaster zones outside of Red Hook are updated regularly at InterOccupy.net and the group has also established an Occupy Sandy's Wedding Registry at Amazon for people outside the immediate area to offer assistance.
NYC Food Flood can be found on Twitter or by e-mailing email@example.com.
The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City is accepting Sandy-specific donations through the city's website: https://www.nyc.gov/html/fund/html/donate/donate.shtml