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Saturday, April 19, 2014
Guardian angels
Long Beach Christmas Angel helping Sandy victims
By Alexandra Spychalsky
Courtesy Johanna Sofield
LBCA volunteers wrapped prizes for Friday’s holiday fundraiser.

Ten months after Hurricane Sandy, Johanna Sofield, president of the Long Beach Christmas Angel, walked in to the house of a potential grant recipient, and found an elderly couple that had been using a bucket to shower for nearly a year.

“You would think that this isn’t happening,” Sofield said. “But it really still is. Daily, we walk into a situation where we say ‘how are they still in this situation?’”

The Long Beach Christmas Angel, a non-profit organization formed to aid families in financial crisis across the city, has been helping families in Long Beach for more than a decade. Sofield said that the group has helped with everything from mortgage payments to providing laptops for students and camp tuition for kids whose parents need to work during the summer. But after Sandy, everything changed.

“I could’ve run out of money just helping people up the block because everybody [was] in financial crisis,” Sofield said. “We all of a sudden were in this position where the whole town needed help.”

Sofield said that the group saw an obvious need in the community and decided to extend help to Sandy victims. During the past year, the LBCA has distributed more than $300,000 to about 200 families to help with everything from construction costs to mortgage payments, and it continues to help Sandy victims where other aid sources have fallen short.

“We need to make sure that people know that we are a source,” Sofield said. “The never-ending NY Rising story continues to be a disappointment. They’re not releasing money. They are saying that they are, but I have zero cases, out of more than 300, that have received a dime from NY Rising. People have been waiting in limbo, paying mortgage, paying rent, and now they’re out of their savings and they’re desperate.”

LBCA is one of the 390 grassroots aid organizations in the tri-state area that the Robin Hood Foundation — the beneficiary of last year’s 12-12-12 hurricane relief concert —has been distributing the over $73 million in donations it raised for Sandy victims to. Sofield said that LBCA has received three grants totaling $285,000 from the Robin Hood Foundation over the past year.

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