Island Park resident Aileen Arroyo recalls telling her husband and three children to pack clothes for three days as they prepared to evacuate before superstorm Sandy. She never expected everything they owned would be ruined and that two months later they still would be displaced from their Newport Road home.
The $400,000 split-level ranch where the family has lived for 12 years was submerged in 8 feet of water, ruining everything they owned, Arroyo said. The damage: $100,000. The family had to rip out much of the home's Sheetrock and wooden flooring, exposing the house's frame.
"Everything we worked for got flooded away," said Arroyo, a retired preschool principal, who cannot begin rebuilding until her flood insurance payment arrives. "It has been very hard on us . . . The worst process was throwing out things that you cannot replace," she said, referring to family mementos.
But the Arroyos have received help from one of two local charities started to help some of the storm victims among Island Park's 4,600 residents.
"We're a small village and everyone knows everybody," Mayor James Ruzicka said. "As devastating as the storm was, when you see people help each other, it is just so amazing."
Arroyo said she and her husband used the $1,000 they received from the Young Families of Island Park Hurricane Relief, started by Island Park native Cara Endriss, to buy new clothes for their children so they could attend school. The family is living in a rented apartment of a relative's home in Long Beach.
"Cara was the first angel that landed into our life after this happened," Arroyo said. "She remembered her hometown."
Endriss created her nonprofit three days after the storm hit Oct. 29. Endriss, the mother of 5-year-old twin boys, said she has raised almost $50,000 -- mostly individual donations from as far away as Australia and England -- and helped out 40 families so far. The part-time marketing consultant said she interviews a family for about an hour before awarding them a $1,000 check. Recipients must have children 18 or younger and a home declared uninhabitable.
"What they need right now is cash to rebuild or pay for where they are living," said Endriss, 38, who lives in Atlanta but whose parents, family members and best friends live in Island Park. "This money is to bridge the gap between now and when the insurance money comes in."
Kelly Mirro, 27, said her check allowed her and her fiance, Ernesto Cerritos, 27, to buy a new mattress, toys, clothes and shoes for their 4-year-old daughter Grace, who has high-functioning autism and asthma.
"My daughter's life was turned upside down," said Mirro, whose rented apartment was wrecked by 4 feet of water. "FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] is great, but it is so impersonable. With funds like this, they are just regular people and they want to help and make a difference."
Glenn J. Ingoglia, president of the Island Park Chamber of Commerce, started the Island Park N.Y. Residential and Business Relief Fund Inc. in late November at Ruzicka's request. Ingoglia works with four other residents and business owners who suffered damage to their homes and businesses, including the civic association president and a school board trustee.
So far, they have raised about $2,300 and hope to boost that to $250,000 within five months before starting an application process for aid.
"You could give to the Red Cross or Salvation Army, but by giving to our fund you know exactly who the money is going to," Ingoglia said.
FUNDRAISERS FOR SANDY VICTIMS
Two Island Park charities are raising funds to help local Sandy victims.
Young Families of Island Park Hurricane Relief
Croxley's Ale House & Eatery, 7 South Park Ave., Rockville Centre, Jan. 11, 9 p.m.
Live music club Arlene's Grocery, 95 Stanton St., Manhattan, Jan. 29, 8 p.m.
Island Park N.Y. Residential and Business Relief Fund
The Local Ale House, 140 Long Beach Rd., Island Park, Jan. 4, 8 p.m., contact 516-432-0500