Veteran book publicist Michele Karlsberg, who is publisher of Bywater Books, a lesbian press that also publishes British mysteries, is putting her professional skills to good use this week: Karlsberg is coordinating a group of Staten Islanders who are working around-the-clock to rebuild their devastated community in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Not only is Karlsberg part of a team of Staten Islanders who set up a fund to solicit cash donations for storm victims, but she is working the phones and accepting care packages at her home. Karlsberg is also posting constant updates on her Facebook page, which she has made accessible to the public, advising Staten Islanders on where to obtain help, food, water, and other supplies, while advising outsiders on what is needed and where to send it, as well as posting volunteer opportunities.
"This is my hometown," Karlsberg told PW by phone. "My mother lost everything, my sister lost stuff. It’s really bad here; you have no idea. But this goes beyond family. It’s community."
Karlsberg initially accepted cash donations through her Paypal account to help four particular families who had lost everything in the storm. After collecting $2,500, Karlsberg said, it “got overwhelming,” and she “thought big.” She joined three other Staten Island residents who set up a fund this weekend through Giveitforward, http://www.giveforward.com/saveourshoressandyrelief, so that donors could more easily make cash contributions. Thus far, $5,425 has been raised through the fund.
While the city is doing what it can, Karlsberg says, there’s been very little "hands-on" help coming from that direction. This, along with witnessing such widespread suffering and devastation, inspired her to step in and coordinate a grassroots campaign, while also serving her publicity clients and fulfilling her duties as publisher of Bywater Books.
UPDATE: This report has been corrected: Michele Karlsberg did not initially set up the Save Our Shores fund for Superstorm Sandy relief.