Last week, at Occupy New Haven on the city's upper green, occupier Jennifer Drury found herself in the midst of a losing battle.
“If you like hot food and you like clean dishes, please join the dishwashing committee,” Drury called out to the others, just as a donation of fresh, hot pizzas spread on a nearby pallet commanded the occupiers' full attention.
In this holiday season, the occupiers have not gone without, as they continue to combine their own resources with donations from anonymous individuals and also area businesses. The occupiers deemed the iced gingerbread cookies they received a real treat, just like that hot lentil soup they enjoyed.
Why They Give
“I can’t just sit on the sidelines and see this happen anymore,” said one occupier who lives off the ONH site and says he earns a comfortable income, yet vehemently objects to the money in politics against which the Occupy groups inveigh. He has donated the tents in which the occupiers live, the tarp and the pallets—not to mention a large amount of time and effort.
This weekend, he is scheduled to participate in installing solar heating at the ONH site as the occupiers dig in for the winter. Toward the end of last week, he planned to join others in completing the storage bins for food in the site’s walk-in kitchen.
“It’s still a work in progress,” he said of the ONH camp. “It’s not easy to do.”
Standing beside a carton that cradled full bags of muffins and bagels, Ryan, an occupier who lives on site, confirmed last week that much of the food the occupiers eat arrives from sources outside the camp.
“They’re doing it for us partially because they believe in at least part of what we’re standing for here—to stop political and economic injustice—but also because they’re good people,” he said of the donors to ONH.
“They just want to know we’re okay,” he said.
He conceded that a number of commercial establishments, whose names become familiar to anyone who lingers on the ONH site, might be reluctant to publicize their donations to ONH out of concern that people would stop going to their businesses.
Fear of Losing Customers
In fact, another occupier named Don, whose chief complaint is also money in politics, confirmed that at least one potential donor—this, a member of his family in the construction industry—had objected to contributing building supplies because he feared the loss of clients.
To keep the site going, the occupiers also use their own resources, and they have made use of the New Haven-based, pay-forward website giftflow.org. Yet, while the Occupy Wall Street bank account is, according to one source, substantial, the ONH coffers recently amounted to less than $1,000.
Area nonprofit organizations express their gratitude that ONH is taking care of itself, especially with regard to its foodstream.
“A lot of our food is donated to us, and not to another group,” said Diana Richter, who serves as director of the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, citing one reason why DESK has not donated any food to the occupiers.
She said that ONH’s resourcefulness has prevented additional strain on DESK. “We’re all trying to keep our heads above water right now,” she observed.
Beyond their own efforts to take care of themselves, the occupiers try to find tangible ways to give back. Last weekend, one occupier held up a plastic container of cookie cutters. He said it had been left at the site but was a donation the occupiers could not use. A set of glass dishes was also of no benefit, he said, because of the hazard that any broken glass might pose.
And at a recent meeting of the occupiers, one wondered how ONH could give holiday wishes to the donors from whom they continue to receive support.
“We could go caroling,” the occupier suggested.