Cara Spoto Endriss grew up in Island Park. It was her home until she left for college and eventually settled in Atlanta, where she works as a part-time marketing consultant. She still has family in Island Park, and she says she still thinks of it as home.
So when Hurricane Sandy destroyed the homes and lives of many of her friends and family members, Endriss, 38, knew she had to do something. So she founded the Young Families of Island Park Hurricane Relief charity.
“The charity was initially started to help young families with children 18 and under in Island Park that suffered devastation due to Hurricane Sandy,” she said. “I wanted to provide them with financial assistance to pay for things like temporary housing, replacing goods and, in some cases, helping them to rebuild, as we know insurance isn’t going to be covering the full cost of reconstruction for these people.”
Endriss began collecting money, and soon raised $50,000. People in Island Park nominated others to receive benefits from her charity. She conducted phone interviews with the families to see if they really needed the money. Only one was turned down. Since the storm hit, she has given $1,000 to 43 different families.
“If I can just bring these people a little bit of something, that would be great,” said Endriss. “There’s this mentality out there that if you have insurance and you’re not living below the poverty line, then you really don’t deserve financial assistance. And I really think that attitude needs to be changed.”
She wasted no time after the storm, beginning work on the charity on Nov. 1. “The need was great, and people all over the country wanted to give but didn’t know what to give,” Endriss said. “And they saw this was money going straight to families, and not being dispersed around some other organization. I was collecting about $10,000 a week at one point. It’s been truly life-changing.”
Though she has given away about $42,000 of that initial $50,000, she recently received a grant that will allow her to give donations to the remaining 20 families on her list.
There is also a possibility that Endriss will receive a grant from the Robin Hood Foundation. If she does, it will allow her to open up the charity to everyone in Island Park, not just young families.
“It’s been an act of God,” she said. “I have to give all my credit to God. I have to believe that none of this would have happened without his intervention.”