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Expressway: Scouts roll up sleeves for Sandy victims

Discarded items damaged by superstorm Sandy sit on

Discarded items damaged by superstorm Sandy sit on Illinois Avenue in Long Beach. City officials released a statement Nov. 14 saying an evacuation order for the area has been rescinded. (Nov. 7, 2012) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Boy Scout Troop 189 assembled in the parking lot of Temple B'nai Torah in Wantagh before noon on Sunday, ready to help victims of superstorm Sandy. There's irony in this. Troop 189 is unofficially known as "The Rainmakers of Wantagh," since their overnight trips always seem to be accompanied by rain. And on this day they would deal with the destructive aftermath of rain and wind.

Many of the boys arrived in red T-shirts and sweatshirts, the troop's "casual" uniform. Accompanied by leaders, parents and siblings, they were briefed for the first of many times: how they would head to Nickerson Beach, meet Red Cross personnel and get a specific volunteer assignment for the afternoon.

Nine cars headed south on the Meadowbrook Parkway and got clearance from authorities to proceed south to Long Beach, one of the many disaster areas of the Oct. 29-30 storm. There, the Red Cross awaited.

A week earlier, our family had received a troop email about helping Long Beach and my 16-year-old son, Lathan, expressed immediate interest. In an acute role reversal, I found myself asking his permission: Would it be OK if I went along? Nearly two weeks since Sandy's arrival, about a week since power was restored in our home in East Meadow, and all we kept wondering was how to do something more. This was our chance.

What was supposed to be an afternoon assisting in food/meal distribution changed in an instant. Each team of four scouts was dispatched with a first-responder: current or retired police officers, emergency medical technicians, or firefighters (typically a parent of a scout). Each team included a scout leader and other parents and siblings as well to knock on doors of homes. We took two hours to tend to residents' immediate needs: moving out damaged possessions, getting more water or food, taking requests for medicine or medical care. Each patrol would then return to base -- the parking lot behind a restaurant at West Beech Street and New York Avenue -- where the Red Cross Disaster Relief Truck was stationed. I left my son to another group and headed out with mine.

Scouts walked down Long Beach's tiny footpaths named for the months of the year, May or June Lane, for example. They knocked on doors with signs that read "Welcome to Paradise." They sidestepped the streets littered with waterlogged children's videos, sofa cushions, soggy sheet rock, insulation and bar stools set out for removal. And they navigated the sand. So much sand so far away from its origin -- the beachfront.

Other memories of the day were like photographic or video images: a religious statue was set to dry on a dresser drawer in the middle of a portico. A sport-utility vehicle with the radio tuned to the Giants game allowed a homeowner to listen to football while he gutted and cleaned the inside of his home. Ceramic frogs sat in the garden grass. American flags still flew on their poles.

What was remarkable about this effort were the people of Long Beach. As we knocked on doors, many didn't need help to pack, move or throw anything away, but they blessed and thanked the boys for coming out to see them. They admitted that water, gasoline, and power would be welcome now, but it was really great that these scouts, Long Islanders all, were part of a greater community here to provide a kind word.

Upon returning to our base in Long Beach, our scoutmaster reflected with all participants on the significance of the afternoon. We may not have moved a great deal of furniture and belongings or delivered hundreds of supplies to every household. Yet these young men moved residents' emotions and delivered a heartfelt wish that this resilient community will strengthen and return, rebuild and replace. And for that brief moment, Troop 189's service was honored with gratitude -- by both residents and scouts alike.

Reader Lauren B. Lev lives in East Meadow.