"At 6 p.m. last Sunday, I tore off two layers of plastic sheeting covering the double doors that separate my upstairs living room from my ground-level family room, which are connected by a simple pine staircase. It was a triumphal moment. Then a memory suddenly flashed through my mind.
“At around 10 p.m. on Oct. 29, as Hurricane Sandy bore down on Long Island, murky brown water reached nearly the top of the staircase between the two rooms, destroying all that was in the family room –– and the laundry room, crawl space and garage. I’ll never forget staring down at all that water and thinking that my wife and I were about to lose our home.
“We didn’t, thank goodness. And last Sunday, with our kids seated on our living-room couch, we held a brief, informal ceremony to officially reopen our downstairs family room, which was bone-dry, cleared of any trace of water vapor by two oversized dehumidifiers.”
So began my column of Jan. 10, 2013, “Saving the world, $10 at a time, Part II.”
I remember feeling tired, but happy. Our house was well on its way to being made whole after Hurricane Sandy had rolled through. It would take months more to finish the job, and years more to fully restore my yard.
Ever since then, I, like so many Long Islanders, have been more closely attuned to those suffering amid natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires. I recently reviewed all of the coverage that Tony Rifilato, our Long Beach Herald senior editor, and Bridget Downes, our Long Beach reporter, gave to the steady stream of relief efforts organized by the good folks in the City by the Sea in the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and I was astounded. Long Beach alone raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and collected many trucks full of food for our brothers and sisters in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
I can’t think of a South Shore community that didn’t immediately leap into action when the hurricanes began to hit. In Bellmore-Merrick, where I live, the Kennedy High School cross-country team, on which my daughter Alexandra competed (she’s now a senior), took up a collection of clothing and food to be sent to Texas for a drive sponsored by the Merrick Fire Department. I was astonished when we entered the firehouse to drop off the goods. Donations were piled high in the community room, and people were lined up behind us to give even more.
Around this time in the past, I’ve run a column that I call “Saving the world, $10 at a time.” The idea is much the same as that of the community collections taken up for 2017’s hurricane victims. If we each give a little, that adds up to a lot. Call it old-fashioned crowd-sourcing.
Many victims of Harvey, Irma and Maria are surely suffering terribly, even now, months later. So, if you can, give $10 to a charity or charities that support hurricane relief. Here are a few:
• The American Red Cross: You can find it at www.redcross.org.
• Island Harvest: This Bethpage-based nonprofit organization was founded in 1992 by Linda Breitstone, who had “a cooler, a station wagon and a strong desire to help people in need.” Now an Island-wide organization with a staff of nearly 40 and hundreds of volunteers, Island Harvest collects food that would otherwise be thrown away by businesses such as restaurants and bakeries and puts it in the hands of the marginalized: the poor, the homeless, the abused.
As reported in the East Meadow Herald, Island Harvest has been working hard to help Puerto Ricans. It shipped two truckloads of food to the hurricane-battered nation, and sent Migdalia Otero, the organization’s vice president of operations, and Rebecca Dresner, an Island Harvest volunteer and daughter of the group’s president and CEO, Randi Shubin Dresner, to Puerto Rico to help with the relief effort.
For more information about, or to give to, Island Harvest, go to www.IslandHarvest.org.
• The Herald sent care packages full of snacks to community newspapers in Texas and Florida after the storms, knowing how hard the journalists there would be working to cover the aftermath. We were so touched by the thank-you letter we received from Valerie Harring, executive editor of Breeze Newspapers in Cape Coral, Fla.
Harring wrote that the Breeze newsroom was so moved by our simple gesture that the editors and reporters there took up a collection for ECHO Global Farm, a nonprofit organization in Fort Myers, Fla., that “assists small farmers and families throughout the world by teaching them how to more effectively produce the food needed to meet the needs of their families and communities.”
Despite sustaining $100,000 in damage to its facility, ECHO is providing aid to Puerto Rico, whose small family farms were ravaged by Hurricane Maria. For more about how to help, go to www.echonet.org.
Scott Brinton is the Herald Community Newspapers’ executive editor and an adjunct professor at the Hofstra University Herbert School of Communication. Comments about this column? SBrinton@liherald.com.