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Patricia Dates O'Brien
Ask Trish

How To Help

by Patricia Dates O'Brien
October 1, 2001

Ask Trish - October 2001

How To Help

In New York City, our mayor has urged us to return to our normal lives. Yet for many, lives have been damaged, lost, and at the very least, irrevocably changed. Before, our "normal lives" meant we were constantly competing with others for space—in the subways at rush hour, in our closets in our apartments, or on the sidewalks of midtown. Now, our normal lives lead us to where the crowds congregate, where we can connect with other New Yorkers over a latte or a movie.

Ironically, those of us who left our small towns for the anonymity and glamour of the big city now find ourselves in a new small town—where American flags hang from the windows of studio apartments, and neighbors from down the hall stop by with not only fresh-baked apple pie, but take-out from the local Chinese place down the street. We start to measure our success not by the money we make, but by the smiles of the National Guardsmen who ate our home-baked cookies, even though we burned most of them, not having used the oven since 1996. Instead of going away for the weekend, our normal lives now lead us to visit more with some of the 3 million people in New York who live alone, because we know that nights alone can be depressing and scary. And we smile more at each other, knowing that sometimes a smile is the best donation one can ever make.

Below are some ways that you can help, or get help.

GriefNet.org has 37 different e-mail support groups, and KIDSAID, where children and their parents can express grief and find information. They are accepting volunteers.

BeliefNet.com helps you find a local house of worship. The site also has an online prayer circle for the victims of the attacks.

You can light a "virtual memorial candle" by clicking on the link at www.helping.org.

www.redcross.org will help you find a local chapter where you can not only give blood, but volunteer.

Lawyers are needed to volunteer their skills at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York's Legal Referral Service (212-626-7373, or www.ilawyer.com), the National Employment Law Project (212-285-3025), or the Legal Aid Society's Health Law Unit (718-422-2777.)

Volunteers can be trained by the Public Benefits Resource Center to help victim's families get assistance from food stamps, Medicaid, and other public assistance programs. Call 212-684-3365 for a schedule of training classes.

If you live in the New York City area, Food For Survival, the city's food bank, desperately needs volunteers to distribute 11 million pounds of food. Call 866-NYC-FOOD to volunteer.

If you would like to donate money…

Helping.org—this website has so far raised 8.2 million for disaster relief efforts. It is a comprehensive site with many links to organizations both large and small, including both police and firefighter relief funds. This site also provides links to missing persons locator services, and information on helping children deal with trauma and loss.

WindowsOfHope.org is a family relief fund for families and victims of the World Trade Center who worked in the food service profession. On October 11th, the one-month anniversary of the attacks, New York City area restaurants will donate 10% of the evening's sales to this charity.

Both Windows Of Hope and the ABM Family Fund Trust were set up specifically for the staff of the World Trade Center—people whose families may not be as financially prepared for catastrophe as the companies that worked in the towers. ABM Industries employed janitors, engineers and window cleaners for the World Trade Center. Donations for this fund can be sent to ABM Family Fund Trust, Rincon Annex Box 193224, San Francisco, CA 94119.

Other comprehensive sites are libertyunites.org and charitywave.com.

Other ways to put your money to good use:

Go out to eat. The restaurants in your town could use your business.

Shop—buy a gift for someone who needs a pick-me-up. Or buy something for yourself. All of the profits from the sale of Old Navy's flag tee shirts, for instance, go to the September 11th Fund. At Sephora stores and at www.Sephora.com, fans of Benefit's sparkly "Kitten" powders-in-a-puff can purchase the new "Kitten Shops in New York" for $24, and all proceeds go to the Twin Towers fund. Find out which merchants in your area are donating profits, and patron their establishments.

And perhaps the best way to help is to express your freedom as an American—dance.

This article has also been printed in October's Dance Beat.

Patricia Dates O'Brien is a professional Dancesport competitor, and is the United States 2000 Rising Star American Smooth Champion. She also writes beauty columns for Dancesport Magazine and Dance Beat.

…Her husband gave up his shelf in the medicine cabinet long ago…

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