The Lakeview Volunteer Fire Department has kicked off a food drive for families living in Island Park who suffered devastating losses when Hurricane Sandy struck last week.
"These people are hungry," Lakeview Fire Captain Freddy Senti told Patch after returning from his latest visit to the ravaged Island Park. Senti was distributing bottles of water, but said, "It broke my heart not being able to hand them something to eat."
"Most people [who did evacuate] have come back," Senti said, adding that looting has become a big problem so the residents want to stay to protect their homes and the few possession they didn't lose in the storm. "Now, they're getting into the real recovery."
But echoing what many people close to the relief efforts are now saying, Senti said most of the hurricane victims on Long Island's South Shore do not need anymore clothing donations -- for now at least. (In fact, the Bridge Church in Malverne specifically told its parishioners last week to stop bringing clothes to its donation center and focus on other supplies including diapers, garbage bags, food, hygiene products and cleaning products.)
After speaking with friends, including some former classmates from West Hempstead High School, and other residents down in Island Park, Senti was told that although the water rose 10 feet, it did not impact the second-floor of their homes, where most keep their clothes.
Aside from that though, they lost pretty much everything else -- their cars, power, heat, food, furniture and many valuable and priceless possessions. What they were left with was tons of garbage including debris and damaged property that now needs to be hauled away.
"It's an amazing garbage problem," he said. "They need thousands of garbage trucks."
Since the road to recovery is long and winter is coming, perhaps as soon as Wednesday, Senti told Patch that the relief efforts for communities like Island Park need to be "ongoing," not short-time, and "better coordinated."
The Lakeview Volunteer Fire Department is kicking off a food drive this week, but Senti said the plan is to continue accepting donations indefinitely. They are looking for non-perishable food, Gatorade, and water but also soda and microwaveable meals that they could heat up and distribute to the residents, many who haven't had a Coke or a hot meal in days, Senti said.
Although the major focus of this drive is food, Senti said they would accept other donations too. The items can be dropped off at the back of the firehouse, which is located at 891 Woodfield Rd., West Hempstead. If no one if there to accept the donations, there will be a drop box set up. (For larger donations, email Freddy Senti at firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate the delivery.)
Recalling the tear-streaked faces on many of his former high school buddies and even the strangers he consoled as he walked the streets of Island Park Sunday, Senti said, "These people are really hurting right now."