Oceanside Assistant Fire Chief John Madden spent last Halloween coordinating efforts to search homes for superstorm Sandy survivors, clearing roads so relief groups could distribute essential supplies and responding to call, after call, after call that came in.
“These guys didn’t stop working,” said Madden of his department’s 200 volunteer firefighters, who were on-call for three weeks straight during Sandy and its aftermath. He estimated they responded to 1,500 calls during that time.
Meanwhile, Madden, 34, said many of his members were also grappling with the destruction the storm caused to their own homes.
“We had guys who lost everything they had and were living in the firehouse, going on runs to other people’s houses to help them,” he added.
On Thursday, two days after the anniversary of Sandy, Stop & Shop showed its appreciation for the efforts that Oceanside’s volunteer firefighters, Nassau County Fourth Precinct police officers and the American Red Cross put in during the storm. Inside its Oceanside store located at 3577 Long Beach Rd., Stop & Shop officials presented awards and served up cake to some of these first responders.
“It feels good that what we do out here is appreciated,” said Nassau County Police Officer Kevin Connor, who spent Oct. 29, 2012 rescuing residents in Oceanside and Island Park who had not heeded the warnings to evacuate.
In the weeks that followed, Connor, 37, said he worked 30 out of 35 days, patrolling the neighborhood and policing gas lines.
“There are some unsung heroes in this world and we just wanted to reach out to our fellow community members and thank them,” said Arlene Putterman, manager of public and community relations for Stop & Shop’s New York Metro Division.
Putterman said the first responders also played a crucial role in helping to clean out the Oceanside store, which took in 3 feet of water, so it could reopen two weeks after Sandy.
During Thursday’s celebration, Richard Reed, senior vice president of Disaster Cycle Services for the American Red Cross, also thanked Stop & Shop for the $2.5 million donation it made to the Red Cross one week after Sandy.
“It was critical,” Reed said. “Without donations like that our ability to have a positive impact would be diminished.”
During the disaster, Reed said the Red Cross raised $308 million, and to date has distributed close to 90 percent of those funds. He said the money was used to provide cleaning kits, food, mental health and medical support, and other relief in the initial wake of the storm, and is now being used toward Sandy victims’ long-term recovery needs.
Madden said while he appreciated the recognition Thursday, it’s more important to focus on the community members who are still not back in their homes one year later.
“Those are the people we really need to keep in mind,” he said.