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Lindenhurst drive collecting holiday decorations for Sandy victims
Last year, Nanette Perso decorated her Colonial home with white Christmas lights and red bows.
This season, superstorm Sandy dampened her holiday plans by submerging the first floor in 4 feet of water, irreparably damaging her family’s light decorations and ornaments.
“The first floor of my house is completely demolished,” said Perso, 47, of Lindenhurst. “It’s so close to Christmas. It’s a little overwhelming. I don't even want a Christmas tree, I’m so devastated. But I have a 12-year-old, so I have to do something.”
She spent weeks ripping out the floors, gutting walls and throwing her furniture and family photos to the curb. Just this week, it dawned on her just how close Christmas is, so she sought help to get holiday decorations for her daughter, Josephine.
Perso reached out to Jackie Herig, who recently formed a donation drive called “Operation Decoration Donation,” collecting holiday decorations to distribute to Lindenhurst families affected by the Oct. 29 storm.
It broke Herig’s heart to see her neighbors’ belongings lying in piles at the curb, so since last Monday, she and her cousin Christine Pokorny, 34, of West Babylon, have been collecting artificial and real trees, lights, ornaments, wrapping paper, wreaths and other items.
“I saw what other people were doing with clothing and food drives, but I wanted to do something different,” said Herig, 34, of Lindenhurst. “When you see the smiles on people’s faces, it makes it all worth it.”
After already volunteering with Adopt a House, an organization providing manpower and raising funds for storm-afflicted Lindenhurst residents, the two joined forces with its founder, Jennifer Mackie Aulino, 33, of Lindenhurst, and Victoria Witchey Boye, 32, of West Babylon.
“I never dreamed the project would take off like it did,” Herig said. “Lots of homes will be able to have a nice holiday and that warms my heart. I only wish I would have thought of the project sooner, so I would have had enough time to get other towns on board to do the same.”
ODD calls for tree stands and skirts, stockings, lights, hooks and angels or star tree toppers.
Darla Picozzi’s Oceanside home wasn’t damaged like the Perso family’s, but she still lost necessary holiday items. The Christmas decorations and artificial tree she stored in her sister’s garage, which filled with water during the storm, were unsalvageable.
As a single mother, she’s worried that her children, Madison, 8, and Nicholas, 4, won’t have much of a Christmas this year, so she reached out to Adopt a House to see if they could help.
“My kids are worried,” said Picozzi, 37, of Oceanside. “They think no decorations, no Santa. You can barely afford decorations when you first buy them, and to now replace them is tough.”
ODD aims to provide Picozzi with a tree and various decorations.
“As long as it’s a tree, fake or real, it’ll do,” she said. “If it’s small, it doesn’t matter. Anything is good for us at this point.”
Residents who live south of Montauk Highway can pick up decorations between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Dec. 15 and 16 at Shore Road Park on South Bay Street in Lindenhurst. A truck will drive throughout the area giving away decorations that weekend. For more information, email OperationDecorationDonation@gmail.com or visit its Facebook page. For more information on Adopt a House visit www.adoptahouse.org.
Above: From left, Christina Galante, 40, of West Islip, Victoria Witchey Boye, 32, of West Babylon, Jackie Herig 34,, of Lindenhurst, Christine Pokorny, 34, of West Babylon, and Jen Mackie Aulino, 33, of Lindenhurst, helped organize "Operation Decoration Donation," a branch of local organization Adopt a House, which has been fundraising for households in Lindenhurst and helping families clean up the damage superstorm Sandy left. (Dec. 7, 2012)