The Maine Public Broadcasting Network
Maine Public Radio
Maine Public Classical
Maine Occupy Members Harness Black Friday for Hurricane Relief
11/21/2012   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

As some shoppers eagerly anticipate getting a jump on holiday gifts this Black Friday, others are hoping to harness the shopping frenzy for gifts of a different kind: hurricane relief.  A single mother from South Portland has been driving to New York every Friday night for the past two weeks to drop off donations for victims of Hurricane Sandy.  On Black Friday, she and others will travel to big box stores in a UHaul to collect as much aid as possible and deliver it that night to New York.  Patty Wight has more.

Related Media
Maine Occupy Members Harness Black Friday for Hurr
Originally Aired: 11/21/2012 5:30 PM

In the play room at Dawn York's house in South Portland, gone is the couch and other kid furniture that used to fill the room. In their place are boxes and bags with supplies bound for New York.

"We have four boxes of 48 blood collection needles," says Mike Anthony. "Okay, blood collection needles. Got it," William Hessian says.

William Hessian and Mike Anthony are taking an inventory of what they've collected so far this week.  They're organizing things like medical supplies, toiletries, and food, while Dawn York, who's spear-heading the relief efforts, is at work.  All three of them are a part of Occupy Maine - a movement for social and economic equality. 

William Hessian says helping in natural disasters fits with the Occupy mission. "That's one of the things that Occupy talks about all the time is making sure that we are providing our resources that we share, and making sure that we are reaching out to the people around us."

This won't be their first relief trip to New York. Hessian says Occupy Maine is filling in the gaps left by the Red Cross and FEMA. They've focused their efforts on the Rockaways in New York, a working class area that was hit particularly hard by Hurricane Sandy.   Hessian says their grassroots approach gives them an advantage. 

"Our volunteers that are going down are talking with the acual distribution centers and saying, 'Okay, what do you need right now?'" he says. "And they're making a list and we're getting updated from the spot." 

Finding out what's needed is one thing.  Collecting and delivering them a few hundred miles away is another.  But a single working mother of two young boys is responsible for that. "It's kind of a whirlwind.  I'm a little bit in a fog," says Dawn York. 
Sleep is a limited resource for York these days.  After she puts her kids to bed, she's often awake until midnight making phone calls and spreading the word on Facebook.  Then she's back up at 5:00 a.m. to get ready for work.  On Fridays, her kids go to their father's house, but those are her most grueling days.

"Friday night I get out of work, and I'm just driving all night until I get as many donations as I can, and then we leave around 9:30, 10:00," she says. 

York says she and William Hessian pack an SUV so full they can barely move.  They drive all night to New York, and after they drop off their load in the pre-dawn hours, they turn around and head back to Maine. 

On their last trip, York says they had to leave some donations behind because there wasn't enough room in the SUV.  That, says William Hessian, gave them an idea: "Why don't we try to make this bigger?"

With Black Friday coming up, Hessian and York thought it was the perfect opportunity. "We said, 'Why don't we just rent the biggest UHaul we can rent, and go around for Black Friday, kind of like an awareness thing, but also like, doing something that feels right on Black Friday instead of just spending money?'" Hessian says.

That's exactly what they're going to do.  Hessian, York, and others will go "big box" hopping until the truck is full - stopping at places like WalMart and Target, asking shoppers to pick up a few things to donate while holiday shopping.  It will be another long day for York, but she says losing a little sleep is worth it.

"It blows my mind with the resources we should have in this country that this sort of stuff is not getting taken care of," York says. "So it shows you that when people come together for the greater good, I guess, that we can accomplish a lot.  And I think there's been kind of a new view on Occupy and what it can do." 

Track down the Occupy UHaul on Black Friday.



Become a Fan of the NEW MPBNNews Facebook page. Get news, updates and unique content to share and discuss:

Recommended by our audience on Facebook:
Copyright © 2016 Maine Public Broadcasting Network. All rights reserved.