It has been one of the most devastating weeks in the history of Staten Island. The NYC area, Long Island, the New Jersey Shore were hit hard as Sandy ravaged our communities.
I can’t begin to express my gratitude to my fellow photographers who sent us notes, text messages and left vmails to see if we were okay. The outpouring of love and support was overwhelming but then SUDDENLY e-cards were being sent, paypal donations and checks to help with the recovery efforts. Everyone wanted to help. I just couldn’t believe the generosity. Each text I received, email and message, I started to cry. I couldn’t even utter the words to my husband that my friend donated and then my other friend all from around the world. It was amazing.
As I sat to write thank you notes last night, I realized that this weekend was unexpectedly wonderful thanks to their support. I was able to help a lot of families thanks to their generosity.
Saturday I went to TJ Max and got a dozen blankets. I got pillows, a warm coat for a child, scarves. While I was on line to check out this grandmother and her granddaughter were talking to my daughter Gianvieve and I. The girls were the same age. She noticed we had nearly 2 dozen blankets. I said I was heading to the south shore. She told me her daughter and son in law partnered with a local pizzeria to deliver hot food to families in need. Her daughter called and said “we want to buy $1200 in pizza” and they offered 25% off. They spent the day delivering hot pizza to families and recovery sites. HOW AMAZING!!! I almost started crying on the check out line.
It was so cold out. As night was approaching, I filled canisters with hot cocoa. I wanted to meet the volunteers and ask what the families needed most since many churches were already turning down donations of clothes. I gave them all the blankets and supplies I got earlier. They gave me a list and I jotted everything down. As I drove away, I passed a family with 3 children pushing a shopping cart with supplies. I asked if they needed any more blankets and one teenager turned and smiled as he said, “no thank you we have everything”.
“We have everything.” That just echoed in my mind over and over.
Sunday morning, Chris and I took the girls back to TJ max. Saturday the volunteers told us so many families who lost their homes were sleeping on their lawns or sleeping inside the shell of their house because they had no where else to go. IT WAS ALL THEY HAD LEFT. They asked for pillows and blankets, flashlights and lanterns. Many were sleeping in the dark with nowhere to go.
We got 14 more pillows.. a few more blankets. With the upcoming NOR-EASTER scheduled on Thursday, there’s a huge effort to clear out their homes and break down sheetrock. Families were asking for help with cleanup supplies: black garbage bags, masks because of the horrible smell, workers gloves.
We loaded our truck up with supplies and pillows galore. It was great to drive up to the Midland Beach/Oakwood area with so much for the families. It wouldn’t have been possible without all the generosity by my photography friends. When we pulled up cops were blocking off roads and wouldn’t let us down. Once we explained we had supplies to help the cops cleared everything for us. I mean everything and nodded and as we pulled up to the intersection of Mill Road/Guyon. Many of the evacuees were now sleeping in a community church that was vacant. Although there was no power or electricity, they gathered there to be together. At the intersection, there are 3 corners which held different items for the families. Food on one corner, clothing/bedding on another and cleaning supplies on the last corner.
As we opened up the back of the truck these girls saw the massive stuff. One girl said “Is that for us?” and gasped and said “THANK YOU THANK.” seeing her expression, I almost cried. Chris and I made a few trips to all the corners and people kept seeing us going back and forth emptying and this one guy yelled over “You guys rock!”. The cleaning supplies were very costly. One guy said “How much more of this do you have? How much did you spend?” (looking in disbelief) totally thankful.
I told them we had GENEROUS donations that really made this possible and they just all nod with these smiles that make everything ok. As I was leaving, I asked what else they needed. I gave one girl my cell and am staying in touch.
Chris was so glad he came with me today. He didn’t know exactly what I did yesterday, but he saw everything and was so grateful we were there. All in all we spent 3 days and hundreds and hundreds of dollars in generous donations. It was great. We plan to help more this week. Little by little, we’ll get there.
People in our community are helping each other out of the kindness of their hearts. Helping fellow Staten Islanders. But many of the generous donations I received came from the West Coast and as far as the United Kingdom and have helped soooo so much. Life is hard, we need to be there for each other. People were there for me… there for my hometown. It was overwhelming.
I have never been so proud in my life to be from Staten Island, and the love that I have seen radiate out of the people here is something I will never forget.