My Sandy Project for Staten Island


IMG_0764[1]Kids love their stuff. Their toys, their blankies, books and games.

Imagine being a kid, who, on top of losing all your favorite stuff, you’ve lost your home too.

Imagine being a mom trying to cope with all that loss. And at the same time, trying to get through all that red tape of  filing claims with insurance companies and FEMA.

A few small things, delivered from up north,  just might brighten your day. Even if it’s just a new bottle of berry red nail polish.

A few weeks ago, Susan Bernstein, Director of Education for Temple Beth El in Rochester, told me she had been in touch with an old friend in Staten Island. That friend, David Sorkin, happens to be Director of the Bernikow Jewish Community Center in Staten Island.

The two are collecting “stuff” –  books, toys, crafts, games, and other small luxuries – for those who have lost everything on Staten Island.  The “stuff” will be distributed to hundreds of clients of the JCC now living in shelters throughout Staten Island. These families, some of them living on the brink of poverty even before the storm, just need some sense of normalcy. It’s not much. Toys, books and beauty products may be just a small diversion as these families grapple with long-term struggle of rebuilding their lives and homes.

The only challenge – Rochester and Staten Island are about 350 miles apart.

Susan then asked my husband and I if we had room in our car to drive the donations to Staten Island.

Now, packing a family of five for a car trip is no small task. The family SUV will be crammed with suitcases, bookbags, snacks for the road, and don’t forget my son’s guitar. Then,  there are those growing bodies that used to fit so compactly in an infant seat. Those ever-growing lanky teen and tween legs have taken up the room we once used to stow away all the extras.

No, I have no room in my car. But I’ll happily take all the stuff anyway. Happily.

There is all the room in my heart for my ravished hometown, Staten Island. I have seen the photos and have been following any speck of news from my hometown.

I can’t wait to go home. I know that seeing the devastation with my own eyes is going to be really hard.

In my phone conversation with Sorkin, he asked me to imagine a 4-foot storm surge reaching all the way up to Hylan Blvd. My brain just can’t process. All those businesses, many of them still not up and running.

Since Sandy hit, all I have wanted to do was go home and help.

So, I thank Susan for getting this project started with the JCC of Staten Island. I thank my rabbi, Sara Friedson-King, for letting me make an appeal to the congregation during Shabbat morning services. And I thank my Temple Beth El family for all the donations that will truly make someone’s day a bit brighter.

So far, in addition to the donations in the above photo, there is also an entire barrel of donations waiting for me at synagogue.

I’m putting a hitch on the family car. Renting a U-Haul. Where there is a will there is a way.

Staten Island, don’t worry, I’m coming home to help.

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About stacylynngittleman

I have been a public relations professional and reporter -- and always thought I would live in the New York Metro area - before my husband took a job in Rochester, New York. Most in Metro New York can't find Rochester on a map,and neither could I before we moved. I am now a columnist and a freelance writer for Rochester's only daily newspaper, the Democrat & Chronicle. I also am passionate about gardening, fitness and most of all, Jewish education and Israel Advocacy. Here's my perspective on Western New York living - the good, the bad, and the snowy.

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