As of the writing of this column, it has claimed the lives of 48 New Yorkers. Greater than 110 homes in Breezy Point burnt down. Flooding dominated. The Manhattan skyline went dim. Countless people across communities not only lost power, but became homeless. Historic fixtures such as the Rockaway Beach, Long Beach, and Atlantic City boardwalks blew away.
These are only a few of the tragedies the hurricane cast. One characteristic that has not perished, however, is our good-natured spirit as felt on the streets of Forest Hills and other communities. When times seem bleakest, the greater potential of humanity is realized as good deeds are carried out and miracles shed light.
To assist communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy, the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce approached a number of its local business members last week. The chamber proposed the idea of shop owners establishing collection points, where the public can deliver non-perishable food, water, clothing, and supplies.
On a daily basis, neighborhood residents are fulfilling great deeds by compiling possessions from their homes and purchasing supplies, and businesses are taking their donations to facilities offering those items to communities in dire need.
“We are proud to participate in this cause,” said David Broderick, whose wife Ingrid owns Emily Sugar Shop at 72-01 Austin St.
The shop also distributed over $5,000 worth of candy on Halloween, when emotions were overshadowed by the hurricane.
Michael Shtadtlender, a Forest Hills resident for the last eight years, and his wife delivered bags consisting of canned foods, toiletries, and clothes.
“It’s good to help our neighbors,” he said. “I hope families will be comforted through these tough times.”
Throughout the afternoon, Thank Heaven, a children’s boutique at 72-18 Austin Street, was enriched by locals delivering donations, which led to an exchange of heartwarming community-based stories with owner Ariena Thomsen.
In response to her Facebook page posting, she witnessed at least 200 people delivering donations in the initial three days.
“I packed my minivan a few times, and I am bringing the donations to a veterans center in Beach Channel and a drop-off center on 125th Street in Rockaway,” she said. “I named my shop Thank Heaven eight years ago, since I am thankful for my life and my kids. I learned we live in a beautiful world, where most people are trying to do the right thing, and this renews my confidence in humanity.”
A two-year Forest Hills resident named Kimberly contributed three bags of cleaning supplies and a blanket.
“Forest Hills has been fortunate to have electricity, but now I can finally help all those in desperate need of assistance,” she said.
Mrs. Spariosu of Ridgewood explained,
“A lot of Americans are on anti-depressants, but just seeing America’s generosity is a pill of happiness,” said Mrs. Spariosu of Ridgewood. “This month is Thanksgiving, and we need to be thankful for what we have.”
“I emptied out my drawers and closets with t-shirts, blouses, suits, and dresses, and now I will donate boots and baby clothes,” said Kristine Quattrone, a 14-year resident of Forest Hills and owner of Café Quattrone in Long Island City. “This is a good reason to go through my apartment, and donate to our communities as much as possible.”
Thank Heaven is accepting donations from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
Across the street, patrons of the 52-year-old Irish Cottage at 108-07 72nd Avenue were conversing at the bar about hurricane relief. Twenty-year Forest Hills resident Christopher Fox had lunch with his friend Paddy Smyth of Rockaway. Smyth explained how Rockaway endured a lot.
“Rockaway lost a lot of firefighters on 9/11, and then American Airlines Flight 587 crashed on top of homes two months later,” he said. In response to Hurricane Sandy, he stated, “I am grateful other communities are assisting us, and even political parties are being put aside.”
“America is full of communities, and we tend to forget that,” Fox added.
Not in affiliation with the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, the Irish Cottage’s McNulty family is accepting donations of items including clothes, blankets, canned foods, and gift cards for Target and Home Depot.
Organizations dispersing these donations include the Knights of Columbus and Jewish War Veterans. Patrons admired how firefighters have assisted them in the transport of goods.
Native Forest Hills resident Amee Lettich, owner of Aimee Salon at 71-62 Austin Street, circulated mass emails and posted to Facebook soliciting donations. On Saturday afternoon, her window display was stacked with neatly labeled bags containing coats, sweaters, blankets, canned food, baby formula and food, diapers, and water.
“Some of my friends lost everything, and I am trying my best to help those hit harder than we were,” Lettich stated. “For items received between last night and today, I made a few trips with my truck to Long Beach and Island Park, and tomorrow I am driving to Staten Island. I will continue as long as people donate.”
Venturing away from Austin Street, Forest Hills Jewish Center at 106-06 Queens Boulevard is accepting donations, as well as The Church-In-The-Gardens at 50 Ascan Avenue, and Minuteman Press at 102-07 Queens Boulevard.
Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz established the Councilmember Koslowitz Storm Relief Collection, which operates Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The public can submit non-perishable food, water, batteries, blankets, and clothing and coats in good condition to her 17th floor office at 118-35 Queens Boulevard.
As businesses are accepting donations, friends and family are opening their homes to accommodate those in need. Tara Passik of Rockaway mentioned the kindness of her Forest Hills friends.
“Seven members of my family have been staying in a one-bedroom apartment since Friday,” she said. In Rockaway, her family saw looters, dark stairwells, and feared being attacked.
“I called FEMA twice and they hung up, but today we filed a claim,” she said. “Who knows if we are going to have assistance and a home to come back to? It felt like a third world country where we lost our sense of security, but our family banded together closer than ever.”
More homes, businesses, and organizations will follow in the footsteps of this donation initiative, which will contribute a lasting impression upon greatly affected communities. Times change and potentially weather patterns, but “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself” never withers.