Local collection efforts continue today, Sunday
SHAMOKIN - Three donation collections will be held this weekend to assist victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey.
In two cases, the collections were spurred by local residents with ties to the East Coast states. In the third, it's a follow-up effort to a similar collection and delivery from earlier this week.
Money and goods will be collected from 1:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Mountainside Assembly of God Church along Trevorton Road, Coal Township, with donations to be delivered to residents of Long Island, N.Y.
A collection will be held from noon to 3 p.m. today and 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at 22 E. Fourth St., Mount Carmel, with donations going to Ship Bottom, N.J., and surrounding areas.
There also is a collection from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Beiter's Home Center parking lot on North Fourth Street in Sunbury, with donations going to Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Mountainside's pastor, Rich Earl, was raised in Long Island's Valley Stream.
He hasn't yet visited his hometown since Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the Mid-Atlantic nearly two weeks ago, but has heard from friends and relatives about the devastation.
"The biggest thing is they can't get gas and they don't have electricity, which means they don't have heat," Earl said Friday.
When Earl and others deliver donations to Long Island, he said it will be in an area where one mile inland, water rose as high as 12 feet. Homes and cars are destroyed, and clean places to stay are at a minimum.
"They can't just shack up with a friend or make plans. There's no place for people to stay," he said.
"They're very tapped into the grid and very dependent for everything to work normally. They don't have water, they don't have anything," he said.
Michelle Suhovsky, of Sunbury, had just returned home Friday afternoon after she and several others made a three-plus day relief mission to Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn.
She was a part of a group of citizens from the Sunbury area who worked together to collect donations last weekend. The community heeded their call, with businesses and citizens donating gasoline, clothing, cleaning supplies and more - four carloads worth of items that Suhovsky and company delivered this week.
"I can't tell you how grateful the people of Gerritsen Beach were. They were hugging us and in tears," she said.
As a resident of Sunbury, Suhovsky recalled instances when the Susquehanna River flooded her town. She and others who shared that experience felt compelled to help the New Yorkers whose own towns suffered mass amounts of damage to property and infrastructure.
The town of about 10,000 people is working class, she said. When evacuations of communities in New York City were ordered, Gerritsen Beach was not among them.
The aftermath, as Suhovsky and online news accounts have described, is nothing short of devastating.
"The entirety of the bay area of the city is completely demolished," she said. "Every single solitary car was destroyed.
"I have never in my life seen anything like it," she continued. "It looks like a little kid got mad and threw his Matchboxes around. It's the most amazing thing I ever saw. Their cars are everywhere."
Suhovsky and fellow volunteers left for New York in the early morning hours Tuesday and spent much time assisting residents remove flood-ravaged debris from their homes, everything from tossing away carpet and furniture to ripping out damaged drywall to prevent mold from growing. Even in the current climate where snow is falling and temperatures have dropped, she said mold has oddly managed to spread.
The Sunbury group lived in the community during their stay, experiencing the suffering the citizens have endured - no electricity, rationing of gasoline, no clean drinking water, no heat.
People are freezing, Suhovsky said, and they're hungry for a warm meal.
Of potential donations local residents can make, she said, "In all honesty, as much gas as any human being can give because they're trying to live off generators."
The Sunbury group is planning to return to the Gerritsen Beach area Thursday with all supplies collected locally Sunday.
She mentioned that there is a group of volunteer firefighters from Northumberland County, including Shamokin and Sunbury, who are now in Gerritsen Beach volunteering at the community's fire department. They're doing so, she said, to allow that community's volunteers - the only volunteer firefighters in Brooklyn - a chance to take care of their own homes.
Barbara Rizzo, of Atlas, is a New Jersey native. She grew up going to Wildwood Beach and Long Beach Island, and has an aunt living in Egg Harbor, N.J.
Moved to help the area she once called home, she and friend Helene Tomedi, of Wilburton, organized a donation drive.
"We both believe in living out our faith and that of course means loving our neighbors and taking care of others," Tomedi said.
"We'll take whatever we can," Rizzo said of donations.
Whatever is collected at the Mount Carmel collection will be delivered late next week to Ship Bottom, N.J., and surrounding areas, Rizzo said.