Superstorm Sandy sent Jennifer Gandia into a state of shock that lasted for nearly a week, but once she was able to emerge—unscathed, fortunately, from her Brooklyn home (her lower-Manhattan store, Greenwich Jewelers, was safe as well)—she hasn’t sat still.
“I couldn’t leave the house before Friday, Nov. 3,” she recalls. (When JCK called her, she was en route to help distribute food donations to a devastated area of Coney Island.) “The first thing that [sister and store co-owner] Christina and I did then was to bring trays of hot food like ziti to Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn—a neighborhood next to the one we grew up in.” Every day after that has been a whirlwind of selfless activity for Gandia and friends who volunteer time and energy to help storm victims.
On Saturday, Nov. 4, she and a group of pals—including Michelle Orman, president of Brooklyn, N.Y.–based Last Word Communications, which represents a number of jewelry clients—hopped on a bus to Staten Island. Wearing dust masks and wielding shovels, they scooped debris into trash bags for residents, all in the spirit of helping others try to start their own seemingly insurmountable recovery processes. By Sunday, more friends were involved, and tasked Gandia with helping to manage a new Facebook fan page dubbed Giving Back to Those Affected by Sandy, an online space where needs in the affected boroughs are matched up with donations. Through the page, specific requests—such as vegan food for Seventh Day Adventist parishioners on Coney Island, whose local markets were flooded and then looted during the storm—are granted.
“There is no market for miles, so we’re trying to help keep this little church stocked with food,” she adds. “And the pastor’s wife is cooking every day from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and she is willing to do this even though all of her family’s homes were flooded! Yet there they are, feeding their neighbors and being so selfless. That makes it easier to model that behavior when it’s there in front of you.”
Also in the works: a jewelry auction with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting Sandy victims. Gandia just started extending invitations to designers she carries in her store as well as to jewelry industry PR agencies to spread the word about collections. The effort will be online to reach a wide audience, starting in mid-November (official dates and a site address will be posted when details are finalized) and lasting through Nov. 28. Funds raised will be distributed to local food banks and other needy organizations. Already, 15 designers have pledged to send pieces. To make a donation or arrange to include a piece in the auction, email Gandia at firstname.lastname@example.org.