On day 12 of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath, a fleet of Army Jeeps rolled slowly down Coney Island’s sleepy 21st Street. They parked in perfect rows at a sandy asphalt tennis court across the street from where I stood. Next came 10 ambulances. Suddenly, the enormity of the situation rang crystal clear. This is why, as members of Hoags Corners Volunteer Fire Company, drove 3 1/2 hours to deliver hurricane relief supplies by morning.
Imagine being elderly, disabled or simply without another place to go when Hurricane Sandy made landfall. Now imagine being stuck 20 floors up with no mobility or elevator power to get down. You can’t refill your meds or bottled oxygen, get food, or call for help as cell service comes and goes. As Hoags Corners Volunteer Fire Company unloaded our 24 foot box truck filled with food, sweaters, coats and boots into the Cristo Viene Church, the Army partnered with ambulance personal to systematically visit every apartment and get medical help to those who need it.
Saturday was day 12 since Sandy made landfall. While NYPD stood watch over many corners to prevent looting and gas theft, this was the first presence of organized help in this neighborhood.
Hurricane Sandy Photo Essay: Worth 100,000 Words
Please take a moment to appreciate both the harsh realities and the human good that have sprung forth from the wreckage in my photo essay below. In the midst of the destruction and heartache, hope thrives in the smiles of displaced children and heroic garbage men who walk a fine line between removing Sandy’s remains and tossing people’s destroyed daily life items. NYPD Officer Anthony Bonilla was a wonderful addition to our team, leading a hand in any way he could and sharing stories of what he’s seen as recovery begins. And teams of volunteers working on overall cleanup spanned the Coney Island boardwalk as far as the eye could see.
(For full size images and captions, visit the slideshow in a new window.)
Upstate Helps Downstate
Hoags Corners Volunteer Fire Company made this hurricane relief run from New York’s Capital Region within days of a small but important conversation. Austin Wilkinson, the 13-year-old son of local wounded warrior Tech. Sgt. Joseph Wilkinson, watched hurricane news coverage and wanted to take action. Austin spoke with Town Supervisor David Fleming who approached Fire Chief Bradway’s wife Chris for help. And then it all happened as follows:
Sunday: Chris sent an email and Facebook update asking that warm clothes be delivered to the firehouse between 6-8 PM on Monday, November 5. She reports, “Expecting a few bags, we filled the fire house.”
Monday: People came to sort and bag coats and boots by male, female and children’s sizes.
Tuesday: Donations kept coming. Chris asked who needed what on the Giving Back to Those Affected by Sandy Facebook page and was connected with Cristo Viene Church, a small community space acting as a neighborhood distribution point for supplies, hot meals and support.
Wednesday: Chris says, “The donations didn’t stop. Every time we went to the firehouse, the social hall door had bags of clothes in front of it.”
Thursday: Hannaford of West Sand Lake made a donation so large it took volunteer Linda Reynolds two trips to deliver items to the fire house.
Friday: The Veterans Hope Foundation passed a $500 donation through Lucretia Wilkinson to Chris. With it, Chris bought carts full of dry and canned goods.
The ask was easy. Then came the real challenge. Transportation. Chris says, “We had so much to get there” but options were limited. After the original truck fell through and repeated denials came from several rental truck companies, frustration set in. Saving the day, Fireman TJ Spallane offered use of his 24 foot box truck.
Saturday: We left at 3:45 am, arrived in Coney Island after 7. There, we met the most amazing people and delivered items that truly helped their community get by for a few more days.
Bigger, Better Relief to Rebuild
Neighboring Sand Lake Ambulance, inspired by our trip, asked how to organize another in partnership. The tuck and additional vehicles are lined up and donation collection is underway. This weekend we’ll strive to bring Cristo Viene newly requested items, a beautiful list that has since moved from survival mode to rebuild mode:
Soap, cleaning supplies, bleach, laundry detergent, dish washing liquid, Lysol, mops, brooms, sheet rock, insulation, wood panels, nails, tape and compound for sheet rock, floor tiles (commercial heavy duty vinyl), grout, electrical outlets, wiring, amplified sound equipment, microphones, musical instruments, hand tools, and power tools!
Note: We’re adding dog and cat food to the donation drive this time.
Donate money through PayPal, and your money will be used by Sand Lake Ambulance to purchase food and supplies to be loaded onto the truck(s).
Ways to Offer Help
Visit these great Facebook resources! The most immediate needs are posted here on any given day.
- Giving Back to Those Affected by Sandy
- Occupy Sandy Relief NYC
- Occupy Sandy Relief NJ
- Hurricane Sandy Lost and Found Pets