Milford residents Suzannah Frederick, Patti Persia, Brad Dennehy and Joan Greeley left Milford early Monday, November 5 to travel to Staten Island to volunteer their help with the relief effort from Hurricane Sandy’s devastation. Last week when Hurricane Sandy ripped through the Atlantic Coast, Suzannah, who had lived and worked in New York for 6 years, immediately thought of her friend and colleague Kristen Ortado who now lives on Staten Island. According to Suzannah, just 15 houses down from the Ortado’s residence is total devastation including lost homes and displaced families. The Ortados, fortunate enough to still have their house, have taken in a neighboring family with 3 children down the street after that home was condemned due to storm damage.
Reaching her friend in Milford via emails and text messages, Kristen kept in touch with Suzanna to explain the severity of the relief effort in Staten Island. With no relief to certain areas until this week, many residents have lost homes, family and hope. After hearing her friend in dire straits, Suzannah decided that she wanted to make a direct donation of food, clothing and time to the people of Staten Island by visiting them in New York.
Placing a community call to action on social media, Savannah created an event on Friday, November 2 called 48 Hour Warm Clothing/Toiletries Drive for Staten Island. After two days she had received enough donations to fill three vehicles and enlisted the help of three Milford residents to deliver the goods Monday morning. When the crew got to Staten Island they were escorted by Kristen to her neighborhood and saw the damage for the first time through their own eyes.
“It was a very emotional day meeting with several families in the area, it was just unreal,” commented Suzannah. “It is easy to think of what it would have been like if Delaware was hit directly by Hurricane Sandy. It would be like looking down Walnut Street and seeing houses gone and neighbors misplaced. I know I wanted to make a personal connection to help my friend and the people of Staten Island directly.”
Brad Dennehy, Public Works Director for the City of Milford, took a personal day to accompany Suzannah, Patti and Joan on their trip to help those in Staten Island. Familiar with extreme natural disasters in his hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand, where two major earthquaked ravaged the town within 5 months, Brad took this trip to Staten Island as his personal way to give back to those that had helped his homeland in 2011.
“I thought I was in the third world not a borough of the biggest city in the US,” commented Dennehy after arriving in Staten Island. “…so much devastation, damage and people hurting and so few resources. Why the week after a hurricane there is not equipment and boots on the ground is beyond me.”
With many donations being turned away by local churches and organizations in Staten Island due to an overabundance of materials, Savannah is urging individuals in Delaware to donate directly to donation sites sets up for specific families. The Forster family, for example, is a family of eight that lost their home as it sat submerged in water for days. The Building Department has placed a yellow restricted sticker on the home meaning they can only enter to see what can be salvaged. The Forster family can be helped by visiting www.giveforward.com/forsterfamily.
With the continuing threat of a strong coastal nor’easter affecting the Atlantic Coast again later this week residents of Staten Island are preparing for additional accumulation of rain, snow and winds gusts possibly up to 60 miles per hour. With limited resources and dampened spirits, New York residents have no choice but to prepare as well as they can for more damaging weather and continue to rebuild Staten Island one day at a time.
“I have been fighting back tears all day,” commented volunteer Patti Persia as she was leaving Staten Island Monday evening. “It’s unreal to see the devastation. It’s one thing to see it on television, but another to smell it, taste it, feel it in your bones the loss of this entire community. These people have lost not only their homes, their cars, all of their belongings, but also their friends and neighbors, their community. The devastation is unbelievable.”