The outpouring of generosity for Staten Island hurricane victims was nothing short of amazing! Some people took items right from their own shelves-- batteries, soap, tools, baby items . . . while others obviously made special trips to buy the very items most needed. Girls arrived for the Father-Daughter Dance in fancy dresses – and carrying bleach, sponges and mops. This was truly a lesson to our children about taking time to count our own blessings while remembering those in need. Saturday morning brought Girl Scouts from Little Flower and some reinforcements from Burning Tree ES. With huge hearts they sorted, labeled and decorated each of the boxes with messages of hope. A 27 ft. moving truck was quickly loaded with over 100 shipping boxes of toiletries and cleaners, bag after bag of blankets and towels, towering cartons of diapers, wipes, trash bags and paper products and dozens and dozens of bottles of bleach. To see all of our collection fill that big truck was inspiring. LFS is indeed good!
Our caravan arrived on Staten Island driving toward the worst hit areas. At first we noticed tree damage and then street by street, homes with increasing levels of loss. All have inspection stickers on the doors color coded by level of damage. We were headed to St. Christopher Parish where we were greeted by their pastor, Fr. Joe McLafferty and Laura Kimmins from Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish. They were so very thankful for the supplies we brought - especially on such short notice. Father told us the flood water had stopped rising a mere two blocks before their buildings. The influx of donations has all of the Staten Island churches within close proximity working together. St. Christopher’s would house our donations for the night and distribute in the morning to the people of St. Margaret Mary Parish which is just blocks away but in a more low-lying area. We had also been in touch with Fr. Koeth who is from Staten Island. His family and home parish, Our Lady Queen of Peace, are just a mile from St. Christopher's - luckily on higher ground as well. Fr. McLafferty was most excited to show us one recent addition to his church – a side prayer space devoted to St. Therese of Lisieux! Clearly our patroness was bringing our churches together in this effort!
Before we left, some of us were able to take a short drive through the hardest hit areas. We were not allowed to stop and it felt awkward to take photos (Fr. Koeth has provided most of these) but at least we could see the area for ourselves. That's when the scope of everything was much, much clearer - the devastation is truly just unbelievable. Each and every side street from the beach all the way up to St. Christopher’s has backhoes and bulldozers clearing away the soggy rubble. What was once walls, insulation and the contents of homes now forms huge piles at the end of each block. Nearly every single home has a pile of debris in front of it and damaged cars line streets. Street corners look like flea markets just piled with clothing and food supplies and there are soup kitchens lined up all along the beach and up the main road. What had been a beautiful park and sports area along the waterfront is now one gigantic landfill of demolished ruined homes. For now the cranes just pile up the debris from a long line of dump trucks. The realization that our full truckload of supplies was going to be merely a drop in the bucket for what they need was sobering for all of us. It was heart-warming to be able to help, but clearly their need is great and is going to be very long-lasting.
Our thanks to Jody May for getting the ball rolling on this endeavor. Jeaneen Cavanaugh and Jodi Yeager worked tirelessly to make contacts at churches seeking aid and to recruit help from the Westmoreland Congregational Church and residents of the Westbrook neighborhood. The LFS 6th Grade Girl Scout troop made a conference call with Laura Kimmins to get lists of the needed items. Hearing about the collection, Steve Belson stepped forward to offer a driver and truck from his company JK Movers which allowed us to collect and transport far more items. Linda Kueter, Diana Rangoussis, Angela Schmitt, Helen Koroulakis, Colleen Mudlaff, Karin Bertozzi, Kathleen Norris, Suzy Barnes and Ursula Davila (I’m sure there were more but the morning was a blur!) were just some of the people pitching in sorting and packing with the scouts. Henry Malouf, John Schmitt and Pete Jervey lent muscle to load the truck in record time. Jeaneen, Maggie and John Cavanaugh, Jodi Yeager, Siti Naivota, Linda Kueter, and Amy Kemper-Moore caravanned to Staten Island to unload. And the people of Little Flower again showed that they model St. Therese’s little ways, and even big ways, to help others.
Service for others indeed!