By Tom Wrobleski Staten Island Advance
The Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation is getting ready to hand out some of the $3 million it has raised for Staten Island victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Frank Siller said that the foundation is teaming up with Home Depot to give Islanders in 2,236 yellow-tagged homes here $500 gift certificates for the home-improvement store.
Siller said that homeowners can use the money, $1.1 million in total, to buy building supplies, including Sheetrock and flooring, that they need to continue making their homes habitable again.
He said the Siller effort, which should commence in mid-January, was a logical follow-up to the city’s Rapid Repair program.
“We feel this is the perfect time to step in,” said Siller. “It’s not a lot, but it’s not a little. It will make a difference. It’s another step toward getting people back in their homes.”
Those who want to take advantage must have a Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) registration number in order to do so. Further details will be forthcoming from the foundation.
The Gap has also donated $100,000 in new clothes that the foundation will give out at Christmas. The foundation is also giving out “thousands and thousands” of toys for the holidays, Siller said.
Siller also said that another $500,000 raised would go toward purchasing 20 manufactured homes that would be temporarily put in Connecticut for displaced Islanders.
Some of the houses were delivered to Connecticut last week.
Storm victims can also apply for financial help from the fund sponsored by the Staten Island Advance, Project Hospitality and the St. George Theatre, with the cooperation of the Office of the Borough President.
The Siller foundation also continues to operate a relief center at 2271 Hylan Blvd. where Sandy victims with FEMA numbers can get food, cleaning supplies, clothes and other supplies free of charge.
Most of the items have been donated by groups and companies around the country, Siller said.
“We can help take a burden off those families every week,” said Siller. “Some people may not know we’re there.”
The foundation has also given out a number of space heaters, and is waiting for a supply of de-humidifiers to come in.
“I know people are going to want those,” he said.
Siller said the foundation will stick with the recovery effort for the long haul.
“It’s going to be ongoing for as long as we possibly can” he said. “Through the winter and into the spring for sure.”
He said the foundation was trying to do everything it could for all 19,682 FEMA registrants on the Island.
“We can’t give money to all 19,000,” Siller said. “We’re not FEMA. We’re not government. We don’t have the billions.”
FEMA officials said they have doled out $80 million to Island storm victims so far.
Siller also said that up to 10,000 volunteers had cleaned out and gutted around 1,000 houses.
He said many volunteers had come here from across the country because the foundation had held Siller memorial races in those communities, or had built homes for wounded warriors.
Others are here from New Orleans, he said, paying forward help that they got in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Some volunteers came here from as far away as London, Siller said.
“It shows we’re reaching out,” he said. “It’s a great range of people that we’ve known for 11 years. They’re part of us part of our fiber.”
Said Siller, “It shows the remarkable goodness and greatness of America. We are glad to play our small role.”