This past Thanksgiving weekend, I spent a lot of time thinking about things for which to be thankful.
Driving around the storm ravaged areas of Long Island, the sights might make one feel that we don't have much to be thankful for this holiday season. Homes, cars and personal possessions were lost by the truckload and more. I understand that the debris and ruined items generated by superstorm Sandy have already exceeded the capacity of the local dumps and landfills.
While any loss of life is terrible, we were fortunate, for the most part, that Sandy did not cause the magnitude of loss that many natural disasters in other areas have caused, and for that, we can be grateful.
Many were fortunate enough to get through the storm without suffering any personal loss, and for this, I'm sure they are very grateful.
Many complained of the hardships that came in the aftermath of the storm - no electricity, heat or even gasoline to run generators and vehicles. Yet the power crews were out there working 16 hour days trying to restore power, police and National Guard were patrolling our streets to discourage looting and fire departments were responding to a huge volume of calls resulting from flooded cars sparking into flames as they dried up and flooded home electrical systems sparking as power was restored. We can be thankful for the many workers and first responders who paid no mind to their own safety, convenience and well-being to make sure that we received the services we needed.
Within a day of the storm, I heard a sound that I never expected to hear - the sound of Red Cross workers making their rounds in my neighborhood, announcing over their P.A. system that they had hot food, water and blankets to distribute. That is the kind of thing that we in the suburbs of New York expect to see on television; not on our own streets! Yet, in light of the tremendous losses of our friends, family and neighbors, this is something for which we are very thankful.
In addition to the Red Cross, FEMA, an array of Long Island charities and religious institutions and even groups that had no formal affiliation appeared on the scene with donations, services and a vast array of services desperately needed by those who were hardest hit. Again, these are things for which we are thankful.
While it's true that Sandy brought out the worst in some people; in the form of looting, price gouging, grouchy consumers, aggressive driving and fights on gas lines, it's also true that they were very much the exception to the rule. For the most part, the storm brought out the best in people - from stories of people helping people in the height of the storm, which may have saved lives, to neighbors sharing generators (including the precious, hard-to-get gasoline to run them), lending equipment, feeding one another and offering shelter to those who lost the most. Whether or not we suffered great personal losses in the storm, as a region, we can be both grateful for and proud of those who went out of their way to make the journey a little bit easier for others, even though they were suffering too.
There were also businesses, particularly those in the food industry who reached out to help those most affected at their own expense. Mulcahy's in Wantagh offered a free dinner on the premises for affected families on November 7, Toro Pazzo, also in Wantagh held a donation drive and matched the donations in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Iavarone Bros. will also be matching the donations they collect.
Manor East in Massapequa, and several others offered free Thanksgiving dinners for those who lost so much. The Wantagh Starbucks offered many a way to work from "home" by providing warmth, electricity and an internet connection. World Gym Fitness Center in Wantagh provided warmth, recharging and hot showers.
Countless others collected donations, provided warmth, recharging and deep discounts for those who were doing without the services that we have come to regard as essential to our way of life. I'm sure there are many others that just
haven't come to my attention. And let's not forget the horde of electricians, plumbers and other trade-people who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to get those businesses up and running (mostly on generator power) so they could provide this kind of comfort and assistance.
We can be grateful that we have so many civic-minded business owners in our communities (and show that gratitude by remembering their actions when shopping in the future).
Three and a half weeks after the storm, those same plumbers, electricians and other trade-people, utility workers, police, state troopers and other first responders have had nary a day off so they could help restore normalcy as soon as possible. Their dedication is something to be thankful for.
We can be grateful for the strength and spirit of our communities. Even in places like Long Beach, Freeport, Baldwin, Massapequa and Lindenhurst - who sustained the heaviest losses outside of the boroughs of New York City, residents and
community organizations are banding together to provide material relief and
support, but also to maintain a sense of community, lift spirits and move ahead
with rebuilding. At this point, I think it's safe to say we've earned the nickname, "Strong Island."
To me, the most awe-inspiring aspect of the local reaction to Sandy was the overwhelming desire of local residents to do something ... anything to help. The people who ONLY lost power, or ONLY lost their basements, or ONLY their heating systems, or ONLY their first floor are so grateful to have been spared the worst of the devastation and so empathetic to their neighbors who didn't fare as well, that
they are becoming every day heroes with their efforts.
I've written in this blog before on the subject of micro-business. These are the tiny businesses, most of whom work out of their homes. They are the crafters and service providers who you generally meet as vendors at our street fairs, who you support with your purchases. Despite their tiny size, they too would like to give back to the communities that support them. To this end, my company, Building Your Image LLC , Publicity Consulting (www.buildingyourimage.com) is sponsoring a fundraising event on Tuesday, Dec. 4th from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the basement of the Pixie Nursery School, located at Wantagh Memorial Congregational Church, 1845 Wantagh Avenue, Wantagh. roceeds will go to the Wantagh 6-12 HUGS Committee who are coordinating with any Wantagh residents who were affected by the storm to see to it that they get the things they really need.
Duchessa Handmade Jewelry (www.DuchessaOriginals.com) will be joined at the event by Ravencroft Stained Glass Designs (www.handmadelongisland.com), LD Tees, Playing With Food Catering, Eugene Wood and Jennifer Nelson, Licensed Massage Therapists, Dr. Kathy Bonanno, Chiropractor, many raffle prize contributors and members of local band Face the King to create a party atmosphere where attendees can enjoy free refreshments and live music, shop with a portion going to the relief effort, get some hands-on healing and participate in raffles with proceeds going to the fund. We are also asking those who attend to being a new, unwrapped toy for the John Theissen's Children's Foundation who will be providing toys this holiday season for the families most affected by the storm in addition to the poor and hospitalized children they usually serve. It promises to be an enjoyable evening filled with a sense of community, much to do and many ways to help. I hope to see many of you there.
Now that power has been restored to the vast majority of LIPA customers, it would be easy for those in less affected areas to forget about the devastation, get into the swing of the holiday season and move on with their lives, but for those most affected, there is much work to be done to rebuild lives, homes and communities.
For those who have been minimally impacted, but would like to help their friends or family members who suffered major losses, I have gathered the following suggestions:
Throw a virtual hurricane-recovery shower for them. Have them use a gift registry at whatever online merchant suits them to sign up for what they need. Then invite friends and family to puchase items on the list and have them shipped directly to the recipient.
Give them gift cards to stores that would carry the things they need.
Whatever you choose to do, let's continue to work together to show the world just why we choose to continue to live on this island.