Michele Catalano of East Meadow is a self-proclaimed Internet girl. She even met one of her closet friends, Leah Reich of Oakland, Ca. through Twitter. It was only fitting that when she kick-started a post-Sandy relief effort that it was online and with that very same friend.
Catalano and Reich created their website, Sacks for Sandy, and in just one week have collected more than 700 toys for children affected by Sandy. There has also been a social media movement surrounding the effort.
Inspired by the Occupy Sandy Registry, the two started their mission by creating a wish list of on Amazon.com and then spread the word on their personal Facebook and Twitter accounts. It probably helped their cause that Catalano has nearly 1 million Twitter followers.
"We put it up and then people started responding, sharing our statuses and donating," Catalano said.
The gifts will be donated to firehouses in Lindenhurst, Massapequa, Lido Beach, Island Park and East Rockaway for distribution. The two women hope to collect 1,000 gifts by Friday when the collection drive ends.
Reich said that watching the coverage of a storm that affected her close friend made her want to give back.
"You just feel helpless," she told Patch via Skype. "People lost basic things, but the kids still love the holidays. They should still have Christmas and Hanukkah after all the devastation."
Catalano, who was without electricity for 13 days herself, agreed that normalcy is important for those who remain displaced or are in the rebuilding process.
Catalano said that she came to the realization that people do care about one another and that the Internet is in fact a powerful tool.
"If we don't collect 1,000 gifts, we still got an overwhelming amount from strangers over the Internet," she said. "And it proves that social media can be used to do good because you are able to reach so many people. I have met some of my closest friends online."
But in the end, it is all about the children.
"They went through a devastating thing and have been traumatized," Catalano said. "We just want to bring smiles to these kids faces."
Want to help? Donate a gift to Sacks for Sandy here.