Professional Experience and Personal Reflections
by Lisa Bowstead, Founder

PREVIOUS                                                                                                    NEXT

Collecting and Distributing 
"A Hill of Beans" 
for our Neighbors.
November 2012

The first entry is at the bottom of the page.

Saturday, Nov 24, 2012

Since we are no longer collecting, here's a list of where to donate...

The Occupy Sandy Project: 

The CHURCH OF ST LUKE & ST MATTHEW in Clinton Hill is one of Occupy Sandy's main distribution hubs for donations (see the description of our visit on Nov 20th, below)

Bring a shopping cart for the other end (or borrow one of theirs) 
enter the sanctuary via the front door


Where to donate CLOTHING:

New York Cares -- Coat Drive 2012

The New York Cares Coat Drive is more important than ever in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. We are aiming to collect a record 200,000 coats this year so residents in hard-hit areas can be warm this winter.

As always, you may drop coats at any NYC Police Precinct and any branch of the NYC, Brooklyn or Queens Public Libraries. There are many more locations across the city. 


Little Essentials -- Baby Items

Little Essentials is a community-based organization in Fort Greene Brooklyn that helps keep families together by providing free baby and toddler (to age 4) clothing, gear, toys and other essential items to Brooklyn families living in poverty. Little Essentials helps keep children safe (in cribs, car seats and clothing); lifts the spirits and provides hope to their parents; takes care of our environment by reusing items that are only briefly used. 


Good Will 

Livingston Street Store & Donation Center
(Please call for hours)
258 Livingston Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11201
(718) 923-9037

The NY/NJ Goodwill® is providing free clothing and household goods for people impacted by the storm who lost property due to flooding. Storm-impacted individuals who need to replace what they lost may shop throughout Goodwill stores for $50 worth of free clothing and household goods. The value of items provided can go up to $50 for each family member, even if not all family members are present at the store.


Friday, Nov 23, 2012

Checking-in on the status of the hurricane Sandy relief efforts...

NYC Restore: 

NYC Restore helps New Yorkers in the areas most affected by Hurricane Sandy get access to important information and services to help them recover. NYC Restoration Centers provide the following types of assistance:

  • NYC Rapid Repairs*
  • Food and Nutrition Assistance
  • Temporary Housing Information
  • Health and Medical Benefits
  • Business Restoration
  • Counseling Services
  • Financial Assistance
  • Personal Records and Information
*NYC Rapid Repairs is a new program to send teams of contractors and City inspectors to neighborhoods affected by Hurricane Sandy to quickly repair damaged homes.

NYC Restoration Centers are open from 8 AM – 8 PM daily.

NYC Restoration Centers are located in each borough.

Red Hook
Coffey Park 
85 Richards Street 
Brooklyn, 11231


Coffey Park 
85 Richards St.
Check their hours before you go: 

Services: DUA, Crisis Counseling, Web Registration, SBA Home Loan, Health, Housing Assistance, VA, Aging, Housing Services, Information, Fax, Copy, Phone use, ONA, Legal Referrals, Hazard Mitigation, Teleregistration, IRS, HUD, FEMA Other, Volunteer Organization, SBA Business Loan

IKEA @ 1 Beard St
Check their hours before you go: 

Services: DUA, Crisis Counseling, Web Registration, SBA Home Loan, Health, Insurance, Housing Assistance, VA, Aging, Housing Services, Information, Fax, Copy, Phone use, ONA, Legal Referrals, Hazard Mitigation, Teleregistration, IRS, Other, HUD, FEMA Other, Volunteer Organization, SBA Business Loan

Apply or check your status by phone 1-800-621-3362

The Red Hook Initiative: 

The Red Hook Initiative staff and participants would like to thank the thousands of individuals who came to Red Hook to help our community in the days and weeks following Hurricane Sandy.

Beginning Tuesday, November 20, 2012, RHI is no longer coordinating hurricane relief volunteer efforts in the community. Instead, we are focusing our recovery efforts on providing comprehensive social services, economic recovery through job training and development, and strategically planning recovery and prevention efforts with other Red Hook coalition partners.


The Gowanus Houses:

Today, we'll be shutting down our relief efforts and need volunteer support between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the Gowanus Community Center, 420 Baltic Street in Brooklyn.

We'll be doing a final round of outreach to residents to deliver food/supplies and check in on their health and other needs; continue to distribute food to residents in need and provide information for additional resources include benefits applications, food pantries and other support services needed by the residents of Gowanus.

Later, we'll be packing up what ever is left over to send to Coney Island, the Rockaways, Carnarsie and Red Hook as these communities continue to need relief support.

After today, FUREE will be engaging in supporting recovery efforts including fighting to win the reopening of the Gowanus Community Center which we learned was closed (expect for a senior program) and rented out for parties.


Thursday, Nov 22, 2012

For all of those who could not celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday according to their regular traditions (there are so many!), we hope that you were able to find people with whom to share a meal, and maybe a new reason to give thanks. 

Wednesday, Nov 21, 2012

Maria Pagano, President of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, posted this message to several neighborhood e-groups: 

Thanksgiving Thank you's
Tue Nov 20, 2012 3:52 pm 

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

So very much work done over the last three weeks. I want to make sure that even if I cannot thank almost anyone by name, that you all share in the good news - we have made some inroads into the damages of the storms and our communities are better for having you, we, us in them. 

Thank you, all you wonderful, generous, committed neighbors and friends who responded to the posts from Lisa Bowstead at the Cobble Hill Think Tank. Lisa's call for "the Hill of Beans", the clothes, sundries, hygiene kits and more clothes for the homeless Vets. You responded quickly- reached into your pockets, handed me $100 bills (Thank you, Neighbor Susan!). You bought whatever you could- even the school supplies so desperately needed by the Early Ed teachers from Far Rockaway. 

You shopped, delivered, cooked. And cooked. Day after day-Beans. Red, black, white, beans and rice. And more rice. Lots and lots of rice. And soups, baked beans, casseroles, chili and sweet treats- you delivered and served hot food to folks trapped in the Gowanus, in Red Hook, in the Rockaways and more sites than I know. You were outstandingly, honestly good. Loading up cars, vans, trucks, wagons with diapers, food, batteries and ferrying them to us at the Think Tank and out to those who needed the batteries and hot food and wipes.

More and more as was needed- so much work! collecting,sorting, packing, organizing. Moms came with kids, Dads other Dads with babies, Grandparents, retirees, everyone pitched in. 

Thank you. From those of us who did not suffer, but who are awed by the strength and beauty of your giving, Thank you. You certainly put the "thanks" in T Day.

Happy Thanksgiving to All.

Maria Pagano
Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association
Mom to Mike and Katie

Thank you, Maria, for stopping-by the Cobble Hill Think Tank every day to see how you could help out. You were a driving force in our efforts! 

Tuesday, Nov 20, 2012

Lisa and her dad took a PACKED carload over to the Occupy Sandy Distribution hub at the CHURCH OF ST LUKE & ST MATTHEW, over in Clinton Hill. 

The church was a scene out of an old war movie. ...but it was now and it was real. 

Inside the sanctuary were a series of registrations tables: volunteers, drivers, pick-up supplies (for yourself), register with FEMA, etc.  A constant stream of  diverse, yet average-looking people carried in heavy boxes and bags creating mountains of donations under the huge stained glass window. As quickly as the supplies came in, volunteers placed them in the pews: each pew was labeled for a different type of item (diapers, sleeping bags, soups, toiletries, cleaning supplies, batteries). Most of the dozens of pews were piled 4-feet high with supplies!

While we were there, a middle school class was being trained to help sort. A UPS truck arrived, announcing that everything was for the Occupy efforts. Clearly this was one of many trucks that would deliver donations sent from people across the country. Adults and kids assembled in a line, passing boxes from one to the other,  unloading the truck with impressive efficiency.

Monday, Nov 19, 2012

A few late donations trickled-in as we got back to business. 

Sunday, Nov 18, 2012

The food and supply donations continued to pour-in, leaving us, once again, with little space for tutoring.  ...but we managed. 

Tonight we sorted and bagged all of the remaining clothes: We have 50 bags of women's teen's, children's and baby clothes!! All of the men's clothing, coats of all sizes and blankets went out last week. We will arrange for Good Will to pick-up after the Thanksgiving weekend. 

Saturday, Nov 17, 2012

In a general e-mail to the community, Graig Hammerman of Community Board 6 wrote that the 120 homeless veterans who have been staying at the 9th Street shelter will be relocated back to their permanent shelter in Long Island City, which has been cleared for occupancy by the Department of Buildings. 

Friday, Nov 16, 2012

We posted final e-mail appeal for donations:  

We will continue to collect through Sunday, 11/18, 
but have scaled-back our list to the real necessities: 
- canned soups, beans, vegetables, etc
- boxed milk
- pet food
- diapers
- toiletries
- soaps
- cleaning supplies
- blankets and sleeping bags!!

Drop your donations at The Cobble Hill Think Tank at 
274 Court Street (across from the Cobble Hill Cinema). 
We will deliver all donations to distribution sites affiliated 
with the Red Hood Initiative.

We are no longer accepting any clothing!  Please let us 
know of any drop-site that REALLY needs clothing (men's, 
women's, kid's and infant's). We have dozens of bags ready 
to go out, and we need our classroom back! We've already 
sent all of the coats to Red Hook.  
Please give coats to NY Cares

If you know people who need help, or if you are interested 
in helping residents clean-up and recover, please visit the 
Red Hook Initiative: 

Thursday, Nov 15, 2012

We sent 4 BIG bags of coats to Red Hook today and 6 bags of books, games and materials for the 1st grade class that is displaced from their public school in the Rockaways. 

Representatives from two families in Canarsie whose homes had been flooded visited to collect clothes for themselves and their neighbors. 

Wednesday, Nov 14, 2012

Two residents of the veteran's shelter on 9th Street stopped by to pick up a few things. 

A request was made for classroom materials for a first grade class that had been displaced from their public school in the Rockaways. Donations are to be dropped at the Cobble Hill Think Tank, for a Thursday evening pick-up. 

Tuesday, Nov 13, 2012

We sent a car FULL of food, toiletries, diapers, cleaning supplies and blankets to the Red Hook Initiative. 

Monday, Nov 12, 2012

Today, we filled Brad Lander's own 5-door vehicle to capacity, including the front passenger seat, all the way to the ceiling! He delivered men's clothes, men's coats, over a hundred toiletry kits, socks, underwear and towels to the shelter on 9th street. 

Lisa Bowstead and Brad Lander

A man stopped-by, and asked if we had diapers for a 22-pound boy. He said that the distribution sites in Red Hook were out.  He said that he still had no heat or electricity. I gave him the one pack that I had. When I asked if he needed a blanket, he thanked me for the one I gave him two days ago. 

Representatives from three families in Canarsie visited and told us that their houses had been flooded, but that relief efforts were completely neglecting their neighborhood. They lost all of their things and their furniture, but they were able to clean-out the damaged stuff and dry-out quickly. They filled their car with clothes and coats for all of their family members (for men, women and babies), as well as diapers, food and blankets. 

Effectively Tuesday, The Cobble Hill Think Tank will no longer take clothing donations and we'll send-out all that we have.  We will post the best long-term places to drop such donations. 

We will continue to collect canned food, boxed milk, diapers, toiletries, soaps and cleaning supplies, which we will deliver to distribution sites affiliated with the Red Hood Initiative. 

Sunday, Nov 11, 2012

By noon more donations for the shelter were piling up outside. Today, half of the donations were men's clothes and individually wrapped toiletry kits. 

By the end of the day, we had so many donations (for the shelter and for others) that we couldn't walk through our space. Through all of  this, we continued to work with our students, who didn't think twice about climbing past the piles and moving them aside so that they could take out their books. 

Only one car picked-up today: it headed to the Rockaways filled to capacity. 

Several shelter residents and other homeless people stopped by to collect supplies. The most poignant was a local face, a guy named Michael, who used to work as a super in the neighborhood. Following a car accident, he lost his job and then his home. Now he walks with a cane and lives in a doorway in front of Trader Joe's. When he has $30, he spends a night at an SRO, where he can sleep in a bed and get a hot shower. (He tells horrific stories of the shelters and the subway). I gave him two pairs of jeans, some shirts, socks, a light-weight but warm fleece blanket, toiletries and some food, and I gave him a nice rolling suitcase for him to keep it all in.  

Saturday, Nov 10, 2012

We've collected dozens of pre-packed toiletry kits  and piles of men's clothing. Volunteers sorted and bagged everything. 

We sent a carload of food, diapers and women's toiletries to the Rockaways, and a several trays of hot food and bottles of water to the Gowanus Community Center.  Meanwhile, people continue to  pick up supplies for themselves. 

The Gowanus Community Center will be closed on Sunday. They are taking a much-needed day off. Water donations may be left on their front stoop. They thanked us for all of the prepared and hot food, but told us that they would only be collecting canned foods starting next week.  

A local Blog continues to chronicle the local situation: 

Friday, Nov 9, 2012

We've had a steady stream of donations. 

We sent a carload of food, diapers and women's toiletries to the Rockaways, and a few trays of hot food to the Gowanus Community Center.  And several people came to get supplies for themselves. 

Thursday, Nov 8, 2012

Lots of clothing donations today. And food and toiletries. 

We are only asking for certain clothing at this point: 
- men's clothes, shoes and coats (for the shelter on 9th street) 
- coats, hats, gloves and scarves (for the Rockaways)
- boots and sneakers (for the Rockaways)
Please hold all other clothes for a later time. 

We're expecting generous donations this weekend. We'll need help sorting and delivering to various destinations. 

Wednesday, Nov 7, 2012

With the Nor'easter hitting, we laid low today. Still, people trudged out in the snow to drop off coats and diapers and everything else. 

We sent a load of diapers and wipes to the Gowanus Community center this afternoon, along with several trays of muffins, cup-cakes and brownies that people had baked from the items that have been donated. 

Brad Lander's office contacted me to talk about the veterans who have been relocated to the new shelter on 9th street (near court). I want to be very clear: I fully support proper care of NYC's homeless citizens, and I welcome the shelter in my neighborhood. What I object to is the renovations without permits and the occupancy the building in excess of the Certificate of Occupancy of the building. The building codes are meant to protect the residents of the buildings, and homeless people deserve the same protection under the law as NYC's other citizens.  

In conjunction with an effort spear-headed by Brad lander's office, The Cobble Hill Think Tank will collect men's clothing, coats, shoes, and toiletries, and we will forward them to Sacred Hearts Church (on Carroll and Hicks), where they will be sorted and distributed to the veterans in the shelter on 9th street. 

We will need volunteers on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to collect and sort all of our donated materials and to make deliveries (with a car or a shopping cart): 
- food trays to the Gowanus Community Center
- food, supplies and children's clothes to the Gowanus Community Center
- food and supplies to the Red Hook Initiative
- men's clothes to Sacred Hearts
- food and supplies to the Rockaways

I want to remind people that The Cobble Hill Think Tank is a "for-profit" tutoring and test prep business. In the midst all of the piles of donations, we continue to work with our students, design new programs, and consult with parents. We are happy to have the opportunity to share our prime location and our storage space, and we thank all of the volunteers who have made it all happen. 

Tuesday, Nov 6, 2012

The Rockaways do not need any more clothing at this point (but they will). As I was posting a sign on my door that says "no more clothes", a family of six dropped by to retrieve supplies. They live in the Gowanus Houses, and are cold and hungry. The Gowanus Houses now have generators lighting the hallways and the stairs, but they are still without electricity, heat and hot water. They loaded their shopping cart with children's clothes, food and toiletries and they took baby items for their neighbors. I didn't post the sign: if I have the clothes, someone will want them. 

After dark, a man stopped by. He was just moved from a shelter to a hotel on Hamilton Ave. Not only did he loose his house and his mother's house, but he lost his truck full of tools (he's a contractor). He is optimistic about finding work, and rebuilding his life, but today he needed clothes desperately. He took some jeans, a coat, a sweater, a bottle of seltzer, a jar of peanut butter and a good book.

We sent four carloads to the Rockaways this morning. One driver reported that people are meeting cars as they arrive at distribution sites claiming to need batteries and diapers, which they then sell on the street. Our drivers report that the distribution sites have been effective in fairly distributing the donated items. Drivers are advised to either deliver door-to-door, or to official staff at the distribution sites.

A volunteer sent these photos after she made a delivery to the Rockaways today:

And someone else sent us this video: 

Monday, Nov 5, 2012

We received more donations today: some people brought one or two items, some brought heaping shopping carts. Trader Joe's brought several huge bags of  tooth brushes, tooth paste, floss, deodorant, toilet paper, and cases of peanut butter and jelly. Whether extras from people's pantries or a fresh shopping trip, every single item will be handed by our volunteers directly to the people who need them. 

Also today, several neighbors came by and filled their carts with supplies for hot meals (and cup cakes) that they would prepare and bring to the community center at the Gowanus Houses and to individual families that are living without electricity, gas, water or heat. 

We continue to need volunteers to receive and sort, and drivers willing to head-out to the Rockaways on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday, Nov 4, 2012

Volunteers took home carts of food, which they cooked and brought over to the Gowanus Houses. We discovered that they have had no power since the storm, are cold and climbing stairs in the dark. In fact, police officers made a special run to pick-up all of our batteries and flashlights. 

We sent several more carloads to the Rockaways, especially coats, blankets, cleaning supplies and, of course, food and water. The word is that all of the food is REALLY appreciated, but the urgent items are diapers, adult diapers, flashlights, batteries and toiletries. 

Sunday night, we received this e-mail from a driver:

Thank you Lisa for your efforts and facilities. I was glad to pack/drive a full Honda Pilot-full of necessities (that poured in, thanks to your outreach).

We delivered to Far Rockaway... To the very neediest of families without the means to drive outward for supplies. there's no electricity, but plenty of energy from local groups/church groups and incoming cars full of generous help (in many forms) -- but NO signs of the Red Cross or FEMA as yet. It has a feeling of being at the edge of the world out there.. But your team helped many there.

On Sunday, it was your impromptu organization that mattered. Not stopping at 'drop off' centers -- we went in deep, stopping at times but going to Beach 37th to where mothers and older teens were humble and ever-grateful. Single men and fathers alike, seniors and single mothers, grandparents guarding small children at home.. All venturing out from cold apartments and houses. They couldn't believe the variety of goods supplied from a car from Brooklyn.

They went home with what you provided -- cans of food of all sorts, water, blankets, rice, batteries, toothpaste and toilet paper, clothing and coats, organic milk and choice of juice, pasta and canned soups, chili, and health/power bars, even candy (as Halloween couldn't happen out there), paper towels, cleaning solvents, etc etc They thanked "Brooklyn" and wanted everyone to know how appreciative they were for ample choices of baby food, diapers of any size and clean bed sheets for their children. 

One car load helped well over 20 families, and we stopped by seniors and people on side-streets that felt forgotten. We learned they also need flashlights and ask for batteries and Candles, which we didn't have/provide.Candles to get through nights that now begin at 4:30pm.

I wanted to relay the gratitude they expressed.

Saturday, Nov 3, 2012

Donations of food, toiletries and clothes started piling up and volunteers went to work sorting, packing and delivering. 

Sharon Enlow spent the afternoon painting faces for cash donations. 

There was much confusion about what was needed where. Volunteers brought carloads down to Red Hook, but they reported that the Red Hook Initiative was forwarding their donations to the Rockaways. Instead of transferring our collections to local staging stations, we found people to take the stuff out to Rockaway directly. 

Friday, Nov 2, 2012

Lisa sent this message to her contacts and to local e-mail groups:

The Cobble Hill Think Tank 
is collecting…

"A Hill of Beans"
for our neighbors in Red Hook


- cans of beans
- bags of dried beans
- coffee beans (ground)

- bags of rice
- canned fruits and vegetables
- blankets, coats, warm clothes

Bring your donations to The Cobble Hill Think Tank, 
274 Court Street (across from the Cobble Hill Cinema)
All donations will be distributed by 
The Red Hook Initiative,

It’s not enough, but it’s a start.

Thursday, Nov 1, 2012

The consensus is that Cobble Hill has the air of an episode of the Twilight Zone.

Life here since the Hurricane Sandy passed has been strangely normal and pleasant. The streets are CROWDED with people, children and dogs, strolling, chatting and laughing. Other than unswept leaves and a few downed trees, the neighborhood was virtually untouched by the storm. 

Confined to this bubble of pleasant, perpetual Saturdays, people passed the time visiting with friends, working from home, watching TV, going to restaurants and movies. I was struck by the frequency of sound-bites in front of my Court Street store that were woven with complaints of "cabin fever."  (Can you get cabin fever from being confined to a neighborhood full of pleasantries?  I guess New Yorkers can!)

I got angry. Not at them, but at the situation. We have everything that we need right here, and it's easy to forget about what's going on outside of our community. No, I thought, that's not the neighborhood I live in!

That's why I started the food drive. 

And I dubbed it "A Hill of Beans" so that people would remember that for all of the good that we might be able to do, it will never be enough. 

Lisa Bowstead, Founder
The Cobble Hill Think Tank