When Jill Backlin got to Long Beach Middle School in Lido Beach at around 9 a.m. Friday morning, there were already hundreds of superstorm Sandy victims from the community lined up for much-needed help. Backlin’s family is one of 1,350 with a child attending any of the five elementary schools in the Long Beach School District eligible to receive a $1,000 debit card courtesy of the financial firm Cantor Fitzgerald.
“We lost the first floor of our house and my kid’s playroom,” said Backlin, 37, of Long Beach who was waiting on the first of two lines — one for verifying attendees were eligible and the other for distributing the cards. “This aid is so unexpected that we’re going to use it to build a new playroom.”
CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald Howard Lutnick and his sister Edie Lutnick co-founded The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, which was founded in 2001 after the company lost 658 of its 960 New York employees in the World Trade Center attacks.
The fund, which financially assists victims of terrorism, natural disasters and emergencies, is providing aid to a total of 19 schools in communities in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, New Jersey and Long Island in the month of March.
A total of $1,350,000 was set to be given out Friday.
“Families can use this money in any way they see fit,” said Edie Lutnick. “It’s important to help those areas hardest hit by Sandy. Long Beach is a tough community, but insurance just isn’t coming in fast enough, so this is a little of what we can do to help these families rebuild their lives.”
A Cantor Fitzgerald spokeswoman said more than 1,000 cards were handed out Friday. She said the company would set up another date to hand out cards to the remaining families.
Autumn Raubuck waited in line with her 3-year-old son Marek and 4-month-old son Miles to receive a debit card she would use to replace her children’s beach toys.
“I wouldn't feel right using the money in another way but to make my kids happy,” said Raubuck, 34. “We're going to buy them a surf board, beach chairs and other toys."
Raubuck said her 10-year-old daughter Meghan, a fifth-grader at West Elementary School — which was damaged by the storm and is currently closed — is upset she’ll be finishing out the year at Lindell Elementary instead of her own school.
“It’s her last year at the school and we found out that she won’t be able to go back because her school is not opening back up until the fall,” the mother said. “It’s not enough that our lower level was flooded and her bedroom was damaged, but now it’s even harder for her because she’s not at her school. In some small way, I think this will help our family feel like things might be getting back to normal.”