NEW YORK—The instant communication flow afforded by social media is increasingly becoming a part of everyday life—and when natural disasters hit, time is critical.
During Hurricane Sandy, many who were left in dire straits found a way to communicate and reach out for assistance through social media.
Sean and Shana Carroll were living in Long Beach, N.Y., when Hurricane Sandy struck on Oct. 29. The Carrolls were able to evacuate in their cars before the worst of Sandy hit, but they said they lost everything else. Their whole community was destroyed by flooding.
Sean’s sister, June Carroll, described how the water rose 4 to 5 feet above floor height, leaving structural damage. They are still uncertain if their house is salvageable.
Based in Pennsylvania, with the advantage of power and the Internet, June wanted to help her brother and his family.
Knowing that people would only be concerned about the issue for a limited time, on the night of Oct. 29, she immediately formed a campaign on Fundly.com and promoted it to her network on Facebook.
Fundly was set up in 2009 as a not-for-profit to help people raise funds. By creating a campaign, a nonprofit, political group, or individual can quickly generate funds. A target is set for how much money will satisfy the campaign. With links to Facebook and Twitter, one is quickly able to alert people to the need, and interested parties can then donate directly to those people.
The power of social media is realized with the spread of information, when “a friend who reaches out to their networks who then use their networks,” said Dave Boyce, CEO of Fundly. The viral effect has the potential to perpetuate.
June Carroll set the target at $15,000. On Tuesday, they received two donations. On Wednesday, they received a $4,000 donation. The campaign then gained momentum, reaching their target by Monday, Nov. 5. Because Sean and Shana Carroll received the funding promptly and directly, they were able to go and buy essentials when they needed them.
The Rockaways were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. In some parts, homes were lifted from their foundations, and furniture and personal belongings were swept away along with cars and boats. Residents have been left without basic needs, such as clothing, food, and water.
With images circulating online and via media, people have been inspired to help Rockaway residents. Graziano Casale, sales director of a Manhattan-based telecommunications company, was sitting around with friend, Alina Gershman, on Nov. 1. With the thought “let’s do something to help those people,” said Casale, they began brainstorming.
They decided they would provide supplies for Rockaway residents. By 9:30 p.m. they had created a Fundly campaign. Within five hours, they had received $1,600. Over the following day, the social media platform allowed people to contribute. “Some people wanted to donate goods, others wanted to come and support,” said Casale.
In addition to donated goods, the funds went toward buying supplies for Rockaway residents. By the time they set off on Saturday, they had six cars, one truck, and 30 people. They took with them 850 gallons of bottled water, including 3,200 bottles donated by Smeraldina water and 1,600 bottles donated by Lurisia water, and 500 sandwiches.
Additional supplies included flashlights, hoodies, diapers, toothbrushes, cleaning goods, and more. BJ’s Wholesale gave them a $500 gift card plus the manager donated $50 personally. Home Depot gave them a 20 percent discount on goods.
All the goods were distributed from the back of a truck to grateful Rockaway residents. They went back the following day with nine cars for another round.
Seeing Casale and Gershman swoop in like superheroes, people started to wonder who they were. They quickly came up with “Rescue Team Help Unit.”
The newly acquainted crew is still collecting funds online and will return to help Rockaway residents this Sunday.
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