WISH went Above and Beyond
Sandy was the first time that I had ever been on the receiving line asking for assistance. I had always been the one that was behind the table helping others. The first time I walked into St. Francis de Sales gym for batteries and gloves I broke down in tears. Receiving help was very strange for me. Fortunately, some friends and acquaintances saw me and quickly made me feel better.
Three women who helped me were essential in the beginning of the recovery effort and in setting up the supply center at St Francis: Meghan Courtney, Nicole Moriarty and Colleen O’Rourke. With large crowds flowing in, they realized that an additional relief center was needed and this is when WISH took action. I had been part of WISH (Women Inspired to Help and Support) and we had been doing charitable work in the neighborhood for a few years but the effort required this time was like nothing else we had ever done.
We found out that the Belle Harbor Yacht Club was available. By Thanksgiving, WISH had set up a supply center.
The first event we organized was a Thanksgiving Dinner project led by Nicole. Nicole managed to coordinate with a Burrini’s Restaurant from New Jersey and was able to distribute 100 packaged dinners. WISH and the Belle Harbor Yacht Club were also honored to host Team Rubicon for Thanksgiving Dinner.
Next up was Christmas and we knew something had to be done for the children. Tiffany Turchi and Shannon O’Rourke signed up for what became an enormous task: Operation Sandy Claus RBNY. Tiffany and Shannon matched generous people who we dubbed as elves with families who could use some extra help with Christmas. More than 200 elves filled wish lists for more than 500 children. Families filled out wish lists and after advertising on Facebook generous people contacted Tiffany and Shannon and wish lists were filled.
Also in December, we held an event called Light Up Rockaway. Nicole realized most residents lost decorations and lights during the storm. Nicole and many other WISH members and volunteer quickly made contact with people who could get us lights, trees and decorations. Meghan and I were in Manhattan and luckily ran into a disc jockey, Elvis Duran from Z-100. He took our donation letter and mentioned us on his radio show. Through the mainstream and social media we received donations from all over the country. Unpacking homemade decorations from Girl Scout Troops in Nebraska was amazing. We had a Santa and each child received a small gift after mom and dad received a bag of decorations, lights, a tree and a wreath. DJ Mouse played while everyone had a great time. To me it was the first time I had seen many people smiling and enjoying themselves. The kids danced all day and had a blast.
While the Thanksgiving and Christmas projects were going on, we still had to keep the supply center up and running. Many people needed basic necessities and no stores were open in the community. Hundreds of people came to the BHYC to get basic supplies such as shampoo, soap, toothpaste, gloves, batteries and food. These supplies came to the BHYC quickly after was posting on Facebook. The supplies then came in by way of packed cars, vans, or trucks that organizations rented. In addition to basic necessities, blow up mattresses were a hot item. And so were space heaters. We were lucky enough to receive and distribute 3000 space heaters from Mayor Bloomberg. The heaters were a huge help to residents when they got power back but still had no heat.
After the Christmas season, we were lucky enough to help with two events for the moms. Cabi clothing called us and we helped give out clothing to 250 women. Each woman was able to pick five to eight pieces of clothing. The women from the event were so kind and helpful. We also held a day of beauty with the Footprint Foundation where moms and younger ladies could get make up application, manicures, massages and haircuts.
All of the above events were organized and planned with our great team and volunteers. We had high school students, local children and women from all over the tri-state area continuing to help organize supplies and sort out donations.
Now all of the above was going on while many of the WISH members had no power, heat or hot water at their own homes. A year later, our vice president is still not home since her house had to be demolished. I think for many of us the supply center and the various events we helped with kept our minds off of our own issues. While I was answering calls and responding to Facebook messages I was not thinking about insurance, adjusters, electricians, or plumbers. It was a great distraction.
Beth Hanning writes the Slice of Life Column for The Wave.