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Sandy relief events across LI this weekend

Red Cross Disaster Relief volunteers distribute hot food

Red Cross Disaster Relief volunteers distribute hot food to families affected by Superstorm Sandy at Cedar Creek Park in Seaford. (Nov. 1, 2012) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Efforts to deliver food and other basic supplies to Long Island residents affected by Sandy will kick into high gear this weekend, said officers from social service nonprofits that scrambled to gather donations and offer relief.

As several nonprofits roll out their plans this weekend, many in the hardest-hit areas can expect a supply of food, fresh water and warm clothing, but officials said they will need sustained help from the public to keep up their work or, in some cases, even get the goods from Point A to Point B.

"For Long Island, this is a catastrophic event and we are going to need all the help we can get," said Migdalia Otero, vice president of operations and food sourcing for Island Harvest, a food bank in Mineola. "It's something we haven't experienced in decades."

The good news is that help is already on the way for those who most need it.

On Saturday, for instance, Island Harvest expects to distribute 150,000 sandwiches along with soup meals, water and juices to such ravaged areas as Long Beach, Mastic, Shirley, Amityville, Lindenhurst, Babylon and Freeport.

The group is expecting 26 tractor-trailer loads of mostly food donations from states as far away as Florida, Kansas and California.

Likewise, Long Island Cares, a Hauppauge-based organization, will open its food pantry for the weekend while also serving meals in Freeport. It will use two mobile outreach units to send 500 pounds of food to homebound people who contact the organization.

Long Island Cares is expecting about nine truckloads of baby food and infant formula.

The American Red Cross is opening feeding sites in Lido Beach, Roslyn and Seaford in Nassau and Hauppauge, Mastic and Riverhead in Suffolk.

Long Island Food Not Bombs has been able to save more than 125,000 pounds of food donated by grocery stores running out of generator power. The group is organizing its usual "food shares" in Coram, Farmingville, Hempstead, Huntington and Wyandanch, while also expanding visits to areas that bore the brunt of the storm.

However, relief groups are hampered by the same gas shortage and communication problems that have befallen most Long Islanders, group founder Jon Stepanian said.

The group needs Long Islanders not only to support it with donations, but also to alert it to people who need help and others who can deliver food, he said.

"We want people to hold their own drives and find elderly people in their communities and knock on their doors and help us get the food and supplies to them," Stepanian said.

Because damage is widespread, many Long Islanders who normally would not rely on food banks may need assistance and relief groups want to reach them.

"What ends up happening in a disaster when every socioeconomic class is impacted . . . every socioeconomic class utilizes the health and human services sector," said Gwen O'Shea, president and chief executive of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, which coordinates a coalition of relief groups.

Relief groups want people making donations to continue their support for "a long-term recovery," O'Shea said.

Some Long Islanders appear to recognize the need to help shoulder the relief efforts.

The Teachers Association of Lindenhurst was one group that held its own impromptu fundraiser to help -- collecting enough clothes, food and supplies to fill a dozen trucks.

The two-hour event outside a Waldbaum's in Lindenhurst attracted more than 100 people, said Jeanette Wolters-Lennon, a 20-year teacher in the district.

All nonperishable food collected was going to be distributed by the National Guard; clothes were to be sorted overnight and turned over Saturday to the Lindenhurst Fire Department.

"The turnout has been absolutely amazing," she said. "People have even been coming, seeing what's going on, going inside and bringing out more items for us to give out."


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