Matthew Fabrizio was working in the basement of the Long Beach Medical Center the night that superstorm Sandy hit Long Island.
As the water began to rise around him, a co-worker quickly pulled him into the elevator as his office would soon be submerged in more than 4 feet of water.
Before the night was over, the 26-year-old, whose Long Beach apartment also flooded, lost everything -- including his shoes.
So when the Vans shoe company decided to hand out 700 pairs of free sneakers and dozens of T-shirts outside of City Hall in Long Beach on Saturday to residents who had lost homes and property more than a month ago, Fabrizio’s mother was among the hundreds lined up to get her son a new pair of shoes.
“That’s what mothers do, right?” said Betty Fabrizio, 63, of Long Beach.
More than 1,500 residents of Long Beach, the Rockaways, and other surrounding towns lined up for free food, clothing and sneakers from the South California-based shoe company -- known for its skateboards and footwear.
Vans employees and town volunteers helped give out hundreds of brand-new sneakers and other clothing from the company’s Brooklyn location.
“Since we flooded and we were so close to the devastation, we figured we would come out to the areas that got hit the hardest and give out shoes,” said “Chopper” Dave Seraita, 35, of Brooklyn. “Vans has so much, we’re just happy to give back to people in need.”
The company also handed out hundreds hot dogs and quesadillas, cases of vitamin water and held a “Worst Deck Contest” in which they gave new skateboards to a dozen local skaters whose boards were beat up.
“We need it, the clothes, the shoes, we need it all,” said Audrey Lopez, 46, of Long Beach, as she waited in line with her family. “We lost everything.”
Less than an hour after the giveaway started, the line of residents stretched down the street and doubled back into an adjacent parking lot.
“It’s an amazing thing, they have such good hearts,” said Donna Vasselman, 54, from Rockaway, who was displaced after the storm. “It’s a beautiful thing to do with the holidays coming.”