A grass-roots movement in East Rockaway

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Social networking, mainly on Facebook, helped a lot, said Daitz, but she realized that many people were still in the dark and had no Internet or phones — so she and her boyfriend, Fred Faust, printed and distributed 1,000 fliers door to door to residents of Bay Park, letting them know what was going on and where they could get food, water, blankets and supplies.

“Chief Torborg and Diane LauKaitis were right there the whole time,” Daitz said. “They asked what I needed … they’re the heroes.”

The hundreds of volunteers who manned what turned out to be many tables at the firehouse put together packets of blankets, cleaning supplies and other necessities and delivered them to homes in East Rockaway and Bay Park. “Some people had lost their cars in the storm,,” Daitz said, “so they couldn’t even get to the firehouse.”

After meeting with Recreation Director Rick Kappel and the Rev. Mark Lukens of Bethany Congregational Church on Main Street, she eventually moved the entire operation to the church’s gymnasium. The Church of the Nazarene and the United Church of Rockville Centre also opened their doors. “We’re all doing what we can to help,” said Lukens.

Daitz said that Leon Williams, the owner of Five-Star Sports and Entertainment Academy on Ryder Place in East Rockaway, offered the use of his establishment to area children at no charge so they could get some exercise and their parents could charge their cell phones and laptops.

“One of the nicest things I saw was Sen. Dean Skelos getting out of his car by the post office with a bag of supplies, clothes I think it was,” Daitz said. “He was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt … he didn’t have a photographer or an entourage with him. He came with his brother and sister, and they just handed things out to those who needed it. It was nice to see.”

Daitz said she is most proud that this was a true community effort. “So many people came to help,” she said. “Firefighters’ families, former residents and high school graduates who don’t even live here anymore … I wish I had made a list of everyone who volunteered. I’d like to thank each of them personally.”

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