November 23, 2012

They 'occupy' themselves by helping victims of Sandy

Maine members of the Occupy movement give precious free time to New Yorkers who are still struggling.

By Kelley Bouchard
Staff Writer

SCARBOROUGH – Dawn Eve York has already made two trips to New York this month, driving a borrowed SUV jam packed with supplies for storm victims and volunteers who are cleaning up from Hurricane Sandy.

click image to enlarge

Dawn Eve York of South Portland joins others collecting donations for Hurricane Sandy relief on Nov. 23, 2012 at Walmart in Scarborough.

Derek Davis / Staff Photographer

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William Hessian of Portland leans out of the moving truck at Walmart in Scarborough to talk to Crystal Golling of Portland about the donations that they are taking to be distributed to victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York City.

Derek Davis / Staff Photographer

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Between working at a mental health agency in Auburn and caring for her two young sons, the single mother and Occupy Maine member from South Portland collected and delivered much-needed items to Occupy Sandy headquarters.

York, 28, said she was compelled to act after seeing news reports about families struggling amid the storm's destruction.

"It pulled on my mom strings," she said Friday. "I couldn't imagine being in that situation."

On Friday, York expanded her efforts. She and several other Occupy Maine members solicited goods from Black Friday shoppers at several stores near the Maine Mall and loaded them into a rented moving van.

She planned to head south Friday night, making stops to pick up supplies gathered by Occupy activists in Portsmouth, N.H., and Hartford, Conn.

She expected to deliver the truckload to Occupy Sandy's main distribution center in Brooklyn and spend part of Saturday volunteering at a medical clinic in Rockaway Beach, Queens.

"I'm hoping to help there once we get some sleep," York said.

York's dedication has inspired similar commitment from William Hessian and Michael Anthony of Portland, Occupy members who planned to accompany her to New York.

"I figure if she can do it, with all that she has going on in her life, I can do it, because she has way less time than me," said Hessian, 30, who works at Staples and the Preble Street Resource Center.

Hessian said Occupy members often talk about mutual aid and helping others in their time of need.

"That's what's happening right now in New York," he said. "A lot of people can't meet their basic needs."

Posters taped to the sides of the moving van advertise some of the items that are needed: blankets, batteries, toiletries, hats, gloves, diapers, baby food, ready-to-eat meals and cleaning supplies, including brooms, shovels and dust masks.

The moving van was still largely empty Friday evening. Occupy members said they had been asked to leave Target and had little success at Marden's. They spent a few hours at Walmart off Payne Road, where some shoppers were generous, donating everything from a pair of boots to a case of bottled juice.

Edwin Mooers of Portland donated a 10-pound bag of potatoes.

"I wanted to help somebody because other people have helped me," Mooers said. "It goes around in a circle."

Janet Warren of Portland donated baby food and diapers.

"I think they're doing a good thing here and I wanted to help the victims of Sandy," Warren said.

York and her helpers also sought cash donations, and received nearly $700 to cover van rental fees and gasoline, according to an online WePay account linked to the Occupy Maine website.

The private relief effort isn't overseen by a registered charity, she said.

York said she was able to make the extended trip to New York this weekend because her sons are staying with their father.

"Those of us with jobs and kids can't be down there every day," York said. "This is one way we can help out."


Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:


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