BUFFALO, N.Y. — While a lot of attention has been on city leaders, the National Guard and first responders in the wake of last weekend’s deadly storm, there is also no shortage of regular community members who stepped up to save lives.
Forty members of Buffalo’s Bangladeshi community came together to rescue people from their cars and homes, deliver food and offer their businesses as shelter — putting themselves in danger to do so.
Volunteers gathered at Lovebirds in Buffalo, which was one of the immigrant-run businesses that remained open to lend a hand.
The volunteers literally saved hundreds, providing transportation, food, water and shelter during a winter storm that killed dozens.
Some even incurred fines due to driving during a travel ban, but the owner of Al-Aqsa Supermarket, Talha Bakth, says fines were the least of their worries.
“You’re pretty much in really bad shape, and we saved those people, relocated them in shelters,” said Bakth. “There were people who really stepped up and risked their own lives. And that’s what we showed Buffalo. Home of Good Neighbors, because they went out and stood up for the whole entire Buffalo.”
The nonprofit Most Valuable Parents worked to coordinate efforts between the Bangladeshi volunteers and a local church in the neighborhood behind a snow-clearing service called Operation Snow Patrol, which started last year.
Carlanda Meadors with MVP says this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship between the organizations, bridging the gap between immigrant and Black communities.
“The east side, you know, there’s always this stigma that it’s divided. Like us and them. But the reality of it is, it’s we and us,” Meadors said. “We work together on one front. It doesn’t matter what race you are, what culture you are.”
As for the fines, MVP is working with the city to ensure volunteers and their efforts are considered essential, though if the appeal doesn’t work, the volunteers believe the fines are still well worth paying.