Community 'pays it forward;' donated items help victims of Sandy
Early last week, area residents felt some relief when they realized that the storm they thought would bring extensive damage to the area lost strength after it made landfall further east, and along the shoreline. Hurricane Sandy was expected to cause widespread damage, with most of it being realized in the New York City and New Jersey region.
When area residents began learning the extent of the destruction along the coast, they immediately felt like they wanted to do something to help out. Many had purchased water and extra food, in the event that power was lost in the region. Soon, an effort to "pay it forward" was initiated via Facebook in which items would be donated for quick delivery to affected areas in New York City and New Jersey.
Working initially with Councilman Stephen Levin's office in Brooklyn, N.Y., a list of what items were needed immediately was received. Local resident Dale Corbin helped establish this contact.
Levin's office had set up an initial collection point, but it was soon moved to a staging area outside of the former Aqueduct Race Track in Jaimaca, N.Y., near Queens. The site was being manned by the New York Police Department (NYPD), and contacts were soon established.
Next, the Owego Pennysaver set up collection points at their offices in Owego, N.Y., and at The Daily Review office in Sayre, Pa.
Through Facebook, an initiative was borne, and hundreds arrived over the next two days with donations of bottled water, blankets, towels, non-perishable food, pet food, and even children's books for those stranded in shelters. Heather Black, of Endicott, N.Y., helped to solicit trucks and volunteers for transport of items.
On Saturday, Mike Benson and Theresa Abrams, of Vestal Center, N.Y., arrived at the Owego Pennysaver with a truck, and a trailer in tow. Inserters working at the Pennysaver that morning dropped what they were doing to assist in sorting, and then loading the items that would soon be en-route to New York City. Billie Jo Wheeland, of Apalachin, N.Y., also arrived to support the effort, and brought donuts and coffee for the volunteers.
Many hands helped with this effort, and the response was overwhelming. During the Flood of 2011, area residents benefited from assistance that arrived, to include fire departments from the Long Island Region. Now, most agreed, it was time to "pay it forward."
As far as the items donated locally, the truck was loaded within two hours on Saturday, and soon the crew, consisting of Wendy Post, Dave Hitt, Theresa Abrams and Mike Benson, headed to New York City.
The crew was warned about the fuel crisis in the city, and the rationing. Stopping for gasoline in western Pennsylvania, the delivery crew was met by long lines at the pump that extended down the road. According to the gas station attendant, people were traveling from the city and New Jersey to get fuel as they were restricted to the odd and even day rule dependent on their license plates.
Closer to the city, most gas stations were darkened by power outages, as well as neighborhoods that had not yet had power restored.
In Queens, N.Y., close to a hundred area residents crowded and lined a darkened street corner with gas cans in hand, waiting to get a hopeful gallon or two of gas at the only operating station in the neighborhood.
And arriving at the former Aqueduct Race Track in Jamaica, N.Y., the delivery crew was greeted by NYPD officers, and was soon directed to a staging area, where tables filled with various items were scattered across the parking lot. Nearby, buses and vans were loading items to transport to various shelters.
One volunteer in particular, Munsey Ricci of Queens, N.Y., who was also a friend of Benson's, was happy to see the amount of bottled water donated.
"Good," said Ricci as the truck began unloading water, "you're replenishing our supply."
Also very welcome was the generous amount of dog and cat food donated for delivery. As soon as volunteers learned the crew was carrying pet food, they ran over to grab as much as they could for quick delivery to the shelters.
"We are getting a lot of items for residents, but none for their pets," said Lieutenant John Dzwlewicz of NYPD. "People just didn't think about it," he added.
And even after the donations were delivered, and the drivers returned home, residents of New York were talking about it.
Rachele Armstrong, a Manhattan resident who grew up in Sayre and Nichols, N.Y., volunteered to unload aid trucks in Staten Island on Sunday.
"We unloaded trucks," said Armstrong, "and then we walked into FEMA zones to distribute the food and supplies."
"Every little bit helps," said Armstrong of the donation that came from their "upstate friends." She noted that it was also a great idea to bring pet food.
The volunteers at the collection site were very appreciative of the donated supplies, and expressed that there is still a great need. For information on how you can help out, you can contact the collection and distribution point by calling (646) 610-5323.