For Inwood Country Club Membership Director Heidi Chriest, getting back on her feet since Hurricane Sandy hit has been a lot easier thanks to the Employee Disaster Relief Effort, a collection of contributions made by the club’s members.
Chriest had at least three feet of water in her one-story Long Beach bungalow and lost furniture, clothing and other personal possessions. “We lost everything; it was really tough,” she said.
When Woodmere resident and Inwood Country Club member Andy Shevins spearheaded the Employee Disaster Relief Effort, his goal was to provide extra support to the club’s employees. “We know we cannot make everybody whole but getting some help from the members has at least given them a start,” he said. “It’s been a hardship; we have a lot of employees who live locally and they’ve suffered a lot.”
Through financial assistance from the relief effort, Chriest was able to buy clothing and other necessities. “I also just found an apartment in Atlantic Beach,” she said. “I wanted to go back to Long Beach but it’s not quite ready yet. With a new apartment you have to pay for everything up front so this has helped us a lot.”
The relief efforts have helped more than 50 of the club’s employees within the past month. Nearly $100,000 in contributions has poured in from 100 members.
Marci Gomez-Vega, a club employee, has called Far Rockaway home for the past 37 years and lost all the contents in her house as well as three vehicles. She was extremely grateful to receive funding from her employer. “It’s really been a lot of help,” she said. “These people are so kind and they help me a lot.”
In order to determine who gets financial assistance and how much, Shevins, Chriest and other managers meet with the heads of each department to obtain a list of how many employees were affected by the hurricane and how bad their losses were. “We prioritize by need and tenure,” Shevins said. “Members have a soft spot for those who have been with us for a while.”
The Inwood Country Club charity has existed for the past 12 years and has provided almost $1 million in financial assistance to local organizations such as the Inwood Buccaneers, 1 in 9: Hewlett House and the JCC of the Greater Five Towns. “We like to help locally because we are an ongoing business in the community and we hire a lot of employees who live local,” Shevins said. “We feel that the members are in a position to help make life better in local communities.”
While Chriest misses Long Beach, she is in the midst of preparing to move into her new apartment and is thankful for the extra assistance from the club. “It’s nice to know that the place you work for takes care of you and thinks about you,” she said. “They could’ve helped other organizations and it’s nice that they appreciate you as an employee. It’s definitely helped get us back on our feet.”