By Sharon Feiereisen
It’s hard to fathom that weeks after Hurricane Sandy reared its ugly head there are still countless without power, while others have been displaced indefinitely—or worse, permanently lost their homes. In a remarkable testament to the power of community, downtown locals have been banding together to undertake incredible feats to help those most in need.
Barry’s Bootcamp, a boutique fitness studio—with downtown locations in Chelsea and Tribeca—lost power the afternoon of Sandy and was forced to shutter both of its locations for nearly a week.
“I had received legitimate warnings from some friends over at the Weather Channel, which caused me to take the storm more seriously,” says Barry’s Bootcamp COO Joey Gonzalez. “My managers and I did what we could, but unfortunately most of the damage was caused by water, which was impossible to keep out.”
Like all businesses that were forced to shut down, Barry’s was financially impacted by the storm, but rather than dwell or wallow, Gonzalez and a number of his co-workers set out to help the relief effort “hand to mouth.”
After collecting monetary donations on their website and goods in their studio, which were donated by staff, clients and anyone in the neighborhood, they delivered them personally to Staten Island and the Rockaways.
“There is a real sense of coming together, and it seems like everyone just keeps thanking one another. We thank clients for donating. They thank us for our contributions. Victims thank us for showing up. We thank them for the opportunity to help. ‘Gratitude’ would have to be the word of the moment,” said Gonzalez.
The studio’s mission didn’t stop with multiple trips to hard-hit areas. Instructor Noah Neiman hosted a series of free classes for Sandy victims.
“I was sitting and watching the news coverage, and all I could think about was how great it would be if I could perhaps—even if only for an hour—get people’s minds off of all of their tragedy and loss,” said Neiman.
“New Yorkers are especially sensitive to any disruption in their routines, so I wanted to offer something comforting and familiar to raise the spirits of those affected,” he said.
While most of those who turned out for Neiman’s first series of gratis classes were people who had lost power and heat, the popular instructor hopes to also help those who suffered greater damage by extending the classes as New York and the people most severely devastated return to a more normal schedule.
“The physical demands of the relief effort and from people actually needing to clear the wreckage of their homes make it hard to focus on attending any form of therapy right now,” says Neiman. “I’d like to gain some more awareness for these classes in the coming weeks and extend this so that the people most affected know that they have that outlet when they are ready for it.”
It may seem trivial to care about a workout when you have endured massive devastation, but as many anxiety-ridden New Yorkers can attest, there is far-reaching healing power when it comes to physical exercise. Pure Yoga instructor Halle Becker said that her classes were packed as people recovered from Sandy.
“There was a need to commune and connect with like-minded people. Yoga is an exercise that quiets the mind and ignites the heart, so in tough times, this is a great recipe for healing; we learn to give of ourselves and to ourselves so that we can show up fully in even the toughest of times,” Becker said.
Gonzalez adds that exercise causes the body to release endorphins, which is always a good thing. “No matter who you are and what is happening in your life, endorphins bring joy,” he said. “While driving around the post-apocalyptic streets of Staten Island, I saw a woman running, listening to her iPod and tearing it up. It made me smile knowing for those 30 minutes or so, her world was a little bit better.”
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