2013-04-05 / Top Stories

Car Slams Into Church And Respond And Center

By Dean Hickey

Reverend Dennis Loncke said it seems God has a better sense of humor than anyone. “He had something different in mind so he just started the process all over again.” He said this after a Toyota Landcruiser smashed into the side of his church, the Arverne Pilgrim Church on Beach 75th Street and Beach Channel Drive.

The incident occurred in the early hours of Tuesday morning, April 2nd, when driver Lloyd Deflorimonte, 49, of Brooklyn, lost control of his Silver SUV and slammed into the church, destroying the building’s western corner, where a bathroom and kitchen is located. “Maybe the colors and the design wasn’t the way the Lord wanted it,” remarked an upbeat Pastor.

The structure itself had just been recently remodeled after Sandy’s. More than 50 inches of flood water poured into the Church, putting it out of action. The crash was also critical to the buildings gas supply, as pipes and other utilities were severed. Rev. Loncke said, “we were in the process of putting up the walls, and having the windows installed. A lot of things got crushed.”

The vehicle in question travelled east down Beach channel Drive, shortly after 3 a.m. Tuesday morning, where it was seen to veer wildly out of control and careened almost head-on into the church, where it became completely embedded into the church walls. Driver Deflorimonte was traveling home from work at the time and was later charged with driving with a suspended license. Deflorimonte was treated for non-life threatening injuries.

The building is also home to “Respond and Rebuild,” a post disaster organization that has helped hundreds of locals get back on their feet following Sandy. Jeoff Yenson, one of Respond and Rebuild’s directors, called this incident a “real set back.

“The building is a brick building, we’ve been working toward a full recovery after Sandy. This has put us back a little but we’ll rebuild and move on.”

Respond and Rebuild was formed as a result of the Haiti earthquake disaster, when six volunteers formed the organization. The goal of Respond and Rebuild is to help those affected by Sandy and to get them safely back into their homes. The six founders, Terri Bennett, Jason Maas, Gabriel van Houten, Ian Schalke, Shanna Snider and Geoff Yenson have worked seven days a week helping those in need after the storm. R&R has logged well over 10,000 volunteer work hours and has worked in more than 200 homes as well as churches and community centers.

Between the six, they have assembled 30 years of helping others. They assist locals with the mold crisis that has affected many as well as helping with demolition, rebuilding, sheetrocking and clean-up operations around Rockaway. R&R was one of the first organizations on the ground talking to residents about the health and safety threats of mold in flooddamaged homes

The now re-damaged building from which R&R and The Arverne Pilgrim Church operate will require new funding measures. “We work on the generosity of those willing to donate, People who give are always a massive help to us and our goals,” Yenson said. Just hours later, the R&R Facebook page noted, “We’ve gotten so much love since the crash, had to issue a true R&R thanks.”

Reverend Loncke also mentioned financial stress caused by Sandy and said the crash is yet another burden.

Donations can be made to the R&R efforts via their website respondandrebuild.org. For now both parties on Beach 75th Street will stay positive, continue to aid those in need, while they continue on the recovery path themselves.

(Dean Hickey, from Dublin, Ireland is working at The Wave as an intern).

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