Sandy victims get early Thanksgiving meal

St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn took proceeds from its annual fundraising dinner to host 2,500 displaced Long Beach residents for Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. Videojournalist: Jim Staubiter (Nov. 17, 2012)

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With Thanksgiving just a few days away, Long Beach residents Anita and John Tebbetts say they could not be more thankful for their lives and a hot meal, despite the devastation left by superstorm Sandy.

The couple, both 53, savored the early Thanksgiving meals provided to storm victims Saturday by St. Francis Hospital.

"We are grateful that we're alive," said a teary-eyed Anita Tebbetts. She said their home took in 2 feet of water and has no heat, hot water or electricity. "Even though there has been misery and destruction, I'm thankful that there are still good-hearted people around. The future should be bright."

The Flower Hill-based hospital canceled its annual pre-Thanksgiving gala to give $75,000 worth of food to about 2,500 residents, seniors, first responders and others in Long Beach, one of Long Island's hardest-hit communities.

"We thought it was the right thing to do," said hospital president Dr. Alan D. Guerci. He added that gala guests forfeited their $500-a-plate ticket to help Sandy victims. "We didn't think it was right to have a party when people are cold, in the dark and hungry."

St. Francis personnel said they worked with officials from Nassau County and the City of Long Beach to distribute tickets to the six-hour affair for those in need. The dining event was held at Long Beach Catholic Regional School, where turkey with gravy, maple glazed ham, stuffing, mashed and sweet potatoes were dished out by Manhattan-based caterer Sterling Affair.

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"The food was so good," said Sandy Durando, 59, who was with her daughter Sandy Villafane, 38, during a break from cleaning out their duplex. "Not only that, but my feet were frozen, so now they're warm."

The food was much-needed relief to Genoveva Franco, 52, of Island Park. Franco said the first floor of her home was inundated and her family's three cars were destroyed.

"The storm's aftermath brought our family closer together," Franco said. "We have our lives and we can move forward."

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