Grassroots Hurricane Relief Fund

"No one is here. Not city, state or federal agencies. Not the Red Cross. People are desperate and knocking on our doors," was a common refrain North Star Fund heard in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy from grantee leaders seeking basic information for poor, working class, immigrant, elderly, public housing, and disabled New Yorkers who were trapped in homes without power, water, or basic supplies. Within 24 hours, it was clear that the immediate response to the storm was being handled by community-based organizations at the neighborhood level.

Volunteers with CAAAV hand out supplies immediately after Hurricane Sandy to impacted residents in Chinatown and the Lower East Side. Photo courtesy of CAAAV.

North Star Fund established the Grassroots Hurricane Relief Fund to help the most vulnerable communities recover. In total, North Star Fund made 41 grants from October 30th to March 31st in the amount of $397,400 to 37 groups in New York City, New Jersey, and Long Island.

The Grassroots Hurricane Relief Fund is unique in prioritizing organizations led by communities most affected by injustice. For example, in Chinatown and the Lower East Side, CAAAV, an organization working with low-income Asian immigrants and refugees, immediately set up an ad-hoc relief center offering critical resources--from phone charging services to diaper distribution--for hundreds of affected residents.

Members of El Centro del Inmigrante help residents rebuild in Staten Island. Photo courtesy of El Centro.

While most of Manhattan was back to normal within a week, 19,000 homes and small businesses in the Rockaways were still without power. Faith in Action, an interfaith, multicultural federation of Queens-based congregations working to improve public policies for low-income immigrants and communities of color, purchased generators to convert homes into community heating centers, and pumped water from flooded basements.

Strategically focusing on groups experiencing significant barriers to resources, North Star Fund made multiple grants to organizations working through the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. The Workers Justice Project in Brooklyn saw their trailer, which served as a vital hiring center, get washed out into New York Harbor.

Since the storm, other funders have looked to North Star Fund for leadership. In January, North Star Fund led a site visit and briefing with over 40 participants to Staten Island and Brooklyn. Attendees of the tour were representatives from large private foundations as well as individuals seeking first-hand knowledge of how to best allocate their resources in relief funding.

Activists with Alliance for a Just Rebuilding call for an equitable distribution of resources.

Finally, in partnership with Atlantic Philanthropies, North Star Fund provided a $150,000 grant to the Alliance for Just Rebuilding, a coalition of community organizing groups focused on finding ways to ensure that low-income communities--predominantly communities of color--receive fair allocation of the $50.5 billion federal recovery funds.

Click here for a list of grants made from the Grassroots Hurricane Relief Fund.