In the midst of the damage and chaos left in Hurricane Sandy's wake, two native Minnesotans found an ingenious way of establishing a little bit of order: a wedding registry.
Recent transplants to New York via Minneapolis, John Heggestuen and Alex Nordenson were looking for a way to volunteer their time to Sandy relief efforts last Friday. Along with Nordenson's girlfriend Katherine Dolan, they went to a shelter near their apartment in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, but there were already so many volunteers that they could not find anything to do.
So the friends wandered over to the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew, which is hosting Occupy Sandy (an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street) in Brooklyn. There was plenty for them to do there, and they quickly realized that there was a lot of room for improvement with the donation system.
"They need a wedding registry," Nordenson said, half joking.
Heggestuen thought the idea was actually pretty great. He approached the Occupy Sandy staff about getting the registry started, and they immediately gave him the go-ahead.
In an attempt to find a quick solution, the friends ended up "hacking" a preexisting registry: Amazon.com.
Now, people all over the world can donate blankets, flashlights, cleaning supplies and other necessities with one easy click. The supplies are sent directly to the Occupy Sandy headquarters at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew, and, according to Heggestuen, the sundries are then distributed in hard-hit areas like Staten Island, the Rockaways, Coney Island, and Canarsie.
Now, only a week after launching the registry, Occupy Sandy has received $250,000 in donations and 12,600 items, according to Heggestuen.
"It's been cool to see how quickly people have gotten behind this," Nordenson said. "It's definitely a new way to approach and crowd source disaster relief."