No matter how you participate on Etsy — whether you are writing code, creating treasuries, or running a shop — we all value the sense of community that binds us together. While harrowing, one of the ways in which this bond truly comes to light is at times of crisis.
As I hunkered down in my Brooklyn apartment watching the windows rattle and hearing the wind roar one month ago on the evening of Monday, October 29, I scoured the Internet for reports from the front lines of Hurricane Sandy. Then this image popped up on my screen and the sight of it still haunts me. For many of us at Etsy and beyond, seeing the photo below shook us into reality with undeniable evidence of the scope of destruction being caused by this superstorm.
Depicted above is Jane’s Carousel, a restored historic landmark that has become a charming neighborhood destination for kids and tourists. It is located on the bank of the East River in a neighborhood in Brooklyn called Dumbo, just blocks from Etsy HQ. In shock, I refreshed my email for the millionth time, searching for reports, and my heart stopped when I saw the subject line “Dumbo Submerged” appear in my company inbox. The employee email thread continued to grow with firsthand accounts of rising water, power outages and fallen trees. Quickly, the conversation turned to offers of spare bedrooms, car rides, Internet connections, and warm meals from those of us who were largely unaffected by the weather. Looking back on the devastation, this outpouring of support still warms my heart.
During the hard times immediately following the storm, Etsy Admin headed out to affected areas to volunteer. Folks were dispatched to Long Island, Red Hook, Staten Island, Coney Island and the Rockaways — some of the places hit hardest by fires and flooding. Mikel and his family volunteered with the Red Cross in the Mastic Beach area of Long Island where they did door-to-door outreach, delivering water and supplies.
Audrey, Katie Rose and Kim spent an afternoon at Added Value, a community farm in Red Hook, the same place where we take our compost every week. Sadly, the farm lost two beehives, their composting system, some major equipment, and all of their crops for the year. Volunteers spent the day flipping soil and getting things back in order.
A substantial portion of relief efforts are being captained by grassroots organizations like Occupy Sandy and smaller local task forces like the Rockaway Renegades, with whom our video producer Tara volunteered. Out in the Rockaways (an unprotected peninsula on the South Shore of Long Island), much of the reparation efforts are focused on clearing out basements and entire floors of houses that have been completely destroyed by floods of salt water. Volunteer groups like the Shore Soup Project captained by the Rockaway Rescue Alliance are also busy providing hot meals and other resources for all the local residents, some of whose homes are still without power or heat.
There was also lots of work to be done clearing felled trees and debris from parks all over the city. Many folks joined ad-hoc cleaning crews in neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn and in Harlem to clear branches and bag leaves. A bunch of Etsy employees took part in the Run for Red Hook, a 10k race through the seaside neighborhood of Brooklyn that raised over $6,000 for the Red Hook Initiative. Volunteers have also headed to community spaces like the Park Slope Armory that have been converted to shelters to house displaced citizens.
Many of the local businesses in our neighborhood in Dumbo were severely damaged by flooding. One Girl Cookies, Aegir Boardwalks and Governor are among the ones who have started crowd-funded recovery campaigns. Etsy matched employee donations, totaling tens of thousands of dollars for local relief efforts. We are also working to maintain our company lunch program as conscientiously as possible by continuing to support local food sources and vendors, considering how hard our local restaurant network was hit by the storm. For some, this directory of emergency preparedness protocol for Etsy business owners remains a helpful resource.
In the greater Etsy community there has been a great show of support and comeraderie. Many sellers are contributing to Sandy-related charity organizations, and Etsy teams like this one are being created to rally efforts. If you are a seller looking for assistance, please refer to this collection of resources and emergency preparedness protocol for business owners. There’s still so much more work to be done, and help will be needed throughout the winter to get people back up on their feet, but we are doing what we can to pull together and give back. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who’s been contributing to the heroic relief efforts.
Sometimes it’s hard to know how to help, especially if you live far away from the site of a particular disaster. While volunteering in the field is a noble and necessary endeavor, there are many other ways to get invovled. Seizing opportunities to make a difference on both a local and global scale is something we should all be committed to.
In many ways, we are on that path, connecting with one another for the good of the world, already. By belonging to the Etsy community, you are a part of something bigger than yourself, bigger than your neighborhood, bigger, even, than your social network. Together we are reimagining commerce to be compassionate and supportive; even as Etsy grows, we refuse to be anonymous. While it sometimes takes extreme cases such as Sandy for us to be called to action, it is imperative that we consider the health, well-being and happiness of our fellow human beings every day. To uphold the values that we embody, as re-affirmed by our B Corporation certification, we must acknowledge that we are each dependent on another and thus responsible for future generations not just in emergency situations, but in everything we do.