Mulcahy’s Pub and Concert Hall was a sea of blue on Sept. 6. Hundreds of members of the Nassau County Police Department’s unions, as well as Wantagh and Seaford residents, packed into the venue for a Hurricane Harvey fundraiser.
Harvey — the most powerful hurricane to hit the United States since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 — slammed into the southeastern Texas coast last month as a Category 4 storm, lashing homes and businesses with 130-mph winds and dumping three or more inches of rain per hour, according to the National Weather Service. At least 60 deaths have been reported.
North and South Shore residents are familiar with the level of destruction wrought by a hurricane. Superstorm Sandy rolled across the region on Oct. 29, 2012, and the area has yet to fully recover, with many homes and some businesses still lifeless shells.
“We survived Superstorm Sandy and saw the devastation that happened firsthand,” said James McDermott, president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association. “It’s an even worse situation down there than what we had, so we are very sympathetic for what they are going through. We are simply just doing our part.”
NCPD and PBA leaders teamed up with local organizations and elected leaders to raise money for those affected by Harvey. Through the initiative, dubbed Help for Houston, members of the PBA, the Superior Officers Association, the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, the Civil Service Employees Association and the Detectives Association Inc. collected $120,000 for their fellow police officers in Texas and the American Red Cross.
McDermott, a North Wantagh native, noted that many members of the NCPDare from his hometown and surrounding communities such as Seaford, Levittown, Massapequa and Hicksville. He said that residents and police officers offered individual donations of up to $5,000. Members of his organization racked up $25,000 for the cause.
“We got involved in a huge group text and threw this fundraiser together overnight,” McDermott said.
He thanked his neighbors who came down to the local watering hole for the cause. “My favorite part of all of this is that it’s in my hometown,” he said. “I didn’t have to drive far,” he added with a laugh.
Local charity groups also decided to help. The John Theissen Children’s Foundation — a Wantagh-based charity founded by Theissen, a MacArthur High School alumnus — gathered items to sell at auction. Theissen said that John Murray, the owner of Mulcahy’s, asked him if he he could host the benefit.
Through some last-minute planning, Theissen collected prizes, including sports memorabilia, two Michael Kors handbags, VIP concert tickets for Guns N’ Roses and Bon Jovi and a bicycle donated by Brands Cycle and Fitness, in Wantagh. One of the marquee auction prizes was a J.J. Watt collectible NFL helmet. Watt, of the Houston Texans, has personally raised more than $30 million for Harvey victims.
“Just being able to pitch in is what I enjoy doing the most,” Theissan said. “Instead of sitting at home watching TV on a Wednesday night, I’m here helping out. I live for this.”
Local elected officials past and present also showed their support for Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey. Former U.S. Sen. Al D’Amato donated $50,000 to the cause.
“I’m happy to present this check to the commissioner so that Houston can get the help that it needs,” D’Amato said. “God bless our police and our first responders.”
State Sen. John Brooks, a Democrat from Seaford, also helped promote local supply drives for Texans in flooded areas. Brooks, who has been an active volunteer firefighter for more than 45 years and served as chief of the Seaford Fire Department, applauded the first responders dealing with the devastation of Harvey — and those in Nassau County who sought to help them.
“One thing we hold true is that in times of need, we all come together to help,” Brooks said. “All across Long Island, we’ve seen residents contribute to those suffering due to Hurricane Harvey, and should impending storms bring loss to our area, our citizens will once again lend a helping hand.”
Brooks and Theissen commended Murray for holding the Help for Houston fundraiser. Describing Mulcahy’s as the perfect venue for a benefit, Theissen noted that Murray has opened his doors for hundreds of charity events — including galas for his foundation — over the years.
“You have to strike quick when there is a tragedy,” Murray explained. “It’s nice because this gives back to those in need, and I really feel for the people in Houston because they remind me a lot of Sandy. It’s a feel-good story for everyone.”
The organizers of the event said that they were pleased with the turnout and support for the program. Hundreds of attendees brought and quickly put on Help for Houston shirts, made especially for the occasion.
Patrick Ryder, NCPD commissioner and a Wantagh resident, thanked all of the officers and residents who contributed to the fundraiser. “We want the people of Houston to know that we stand behind them,” he said. “They were supportive of us during Sandy and we’re going to be supportive of them during their struggles now.”
Scott Brinton contributed to this story.