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Hotel guests give up rooms for storm victims

Singer Morley performs with local Sea Cliff kids

Singer Morley performs with local Sea Cliff kids at a hurricane relief benefit concert for the Women's Fund of Long Island at North Shore Architectural Stone in Glen Head. (Nov. 10, 2012) Credit: Sasha Potapov

All 143 rooms at the Holiday Inn Express of Stony Brook were full. After superstorm Sandy, families without power, state troopers and workers aiding in disaster efforts flocked to the hotel, and it was booked solid on Saturday.

John Tsunis, owner of the hotel, said he had a dilemma when even more people were expected to arrive that day -- a touring group set to perform at Staller Center for the Arts, and women's basketball teams from Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J., and Mount Ida College in Newton, Mass., to play at Stony Brook University.

"How do I ask a family to remove their child with cerebral palsy, or a daughter who's autistic, or an elderly person with an oxygen tank, to go back to their homes who had no power?" he said.

Instead, both basketball teams each gave up one room, said Tsunis. Then, about 30 recovery workers from various ServPro franchises primarily in the South -- contracted to clean up damaged homes and businesses across Long Island -- gave up their rooms and used sleeping bags in the hotel's meeting room so that others would not be pushed out of the hotel.

Chris Teters, a member of ServPro's national storm team, said the group bought sleeping bags after hearing about the situation. "In comparison to what everyone else is dealing with, it's pretty minor," he said.

Adelphi students pitch in

Adelphi University students have turned out in droves to help in recovery efforts over the past week, officials said.

On Saturday, more than 60 students, faculty and staff worked at La Cruzada Evangélica church distributing food in Long Beach. Others visited local homes to help clean and remove garbage, said Michael Berthel, senior assistant director for the center for student involvement.

Sunday, more than 40 students and staff assisted Team Rubicon -- a national organization of veterans that leads disaster-relief efforts -- in Belle Harbor, Queens. Most volunteers dug sand out of people's houses, Berthel said.

"You would think you're walking on a beach, when you're walking down these streets," he said, standing amid the sand. "We've had homeowners who have come up to us in tears, thanking us, saying that what we've done in an hour or two would have taken them months."

Lauren Ciuffo, 21, a senior at Adelphi studying psychology, said she grew up in Middle Village, Queens, and knew many people affected by Sandy.

"I've had friends whose homes were destroyed," she said. "They had to evacuate their families on surfboards."

Ciuffo said she felt compelled to help, especially since she was lucky to escape Sandy without suffering any personal loss. It was more than Ciuffo could say for a woman whose driveway was filled with sand, which Ciuffo helped dig out.

"The boardwalk floated right in front of her house," she said.

On Nov. 3, the university also held a donation and blood drive that collected 150 pints of blood, Berthel said. Since then, more than 700 Adelphi students and Nassau County residents donated about 30,000 items such as toiletries, clothing and canned goods, he said.

After about 150 student volunteers sorted all of the items, the school transported the goods to the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management and a donation dropoff site in Freeport, which each dispensed the donations to regional shelters and to Long Beach, respectively.

"Many of our students live in Long Beach, live in Rockaways, live in Freeport. So many of our students, faculty and staff have been affected," said Berthel of why so many people have volunteered. "It's very personal for our community."

Morley sings at benefit

The Women's Fund of Long Island, with the help of Sea Cliff community members, held a Sandy benefit concert on Saturday featuring singer/songwriter Morley and hosted by actress Patricia Arquette.

Stacey Scarpone, the fund's executive director, said it was the first event for the nonprofit's own Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund. The concert raised $10,000, she said.

The money will be donated to grassroots organizations assisting vulnerable women and girls impacted by superstorm Sandy.

Among recipients will be those displaced and in need of housing, those suffering from escalating domestic violence due to the storm, and immigrants who don't know how to communicate with FEMA, LIPA and other agencies for assistance, she said.

"It was so extraordinary how this community came out in five days and literally put together a concert that raised $10,000," Scarpone said. "It was one community that fared well out helping another community who lost a lot."

The 3 1/2-hour concert, held in a donated room at North Shore Architectural Stone in Glen Head, brought out about 80 people. Each person paid $100, but many donated money at the event as well.

Friends of Morley and Arquette asked both women to sign on. Morley performed her own guitar songs and played with local adult and child performers.

"This hurricane allowed everyone to see that everybody was part of it," Scarpone said. "It pulled on a lot of heartstrings because I think people felt, 'We need to give back, we're so fortunate here.' "Donations are still being accepted. For more information visit or call 516-396-9857.

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