By Virginia N. Sherry Staten Island Advance
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — It’s give-back time for Staten Islanders who are rallying to send relief supplies and people-power 1,400 miles west of here, to Oklahoma City, where a monster tornado struck its suburbs on May 20, leaving 24 dead, including 10 children, more than 1,000 buildings destroyed, and almost 1,200 more damaged.
On Saturday, about 100 people arrived at Mount Loretto in Pleasant Plains, starting at 9 a.m., dropping off supplies and helping load labeled boxes into a waiting PODS storage container, one of two scheduled to leave for Oklahoma Tuesday on a flatbed truck.
Items packed inside included food, baby supplies, medical supplies, toiletries, pet food, shovels, tools, and trash bags, said Great Kills resident Dennis McKeon, who founded the nonprofit Where-To-Turn organization in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks. Also on the way are medical packages that Project Homefront assembled, and its contributions of Girl Scouts [sic] cookies, batteries and flashlights, he added.
In addition to Where-To-Turn, participating grassroots and nonprofit organizations included Guyon Rescue, Occupy Sandy, Yellow Boots and Yellow Team, all of them members of the Interfaith Long-Term Recovery Organization. Catholic Charities provided logistics at the drop-off site on Saturday, and contributed eight pallets of supplies into the waiting PODS container, including shovels, brooms and rakes, said Pleasant Plains resident Charlene Oliver, the organization’s administrator at Mount Loretto.
The first two containers will be delivered to an indoor hub set up in Oklahoma City by the Free Will Baptist Church with the assistance of an Oklahoma-based Yellow Boots volunteer, said Mike (Loco) Hoffman.
Staten Islanders with Hurricane Sandy relief and recovery expertise are arriving in Oklahoma to provide upfront guidance. Derek Tabacco, co-founder of Guyon Rescue, flew to the state on Friday night.
Six other Guyon Rescue volunteers were en route to Oklahoma on Saturday morning, waiting for changes of planes in Dallas and Houston, and three more will travel there on Monday, according to Prince’s Bay resident Lenny Legotte, reading from the group’s itinerary. Crosspointe Church in Norman, Okla., will provide beds and food for all of them, he noted.
One of the youngest volunteers at Mount Loretto on Saturday was West Brighton resident Dominick Santacroce, 15, a sophomore at St. Peter’s Boys High School. “I wanted to do community service and help out with some work for another state that just got hit pretty hard,” he said.
‘NOT A DIVERSION’
The aid effort in Oklahoma will not divert resources from Staten Islanders still struggling with post-Sandy consequences and needs, said McKeon.
“This doesn’t stop the work on Staten Island — it’s not over here,” he commented. “Some people can’t get back into their homes because there’s no money for repairs, or because of mold. There’s still a lot to do, and (as-yet unresolved) issues with banks and insurance companies. We’re trying to identify and address these needs.”