If there was a bright spot in Sandy’s aftermath, one suggestion might be the Port Washington-Manhasset Office Of Emergency Management Recovery Center. The dedicated, nimble volunteers who ran the center were recently designated as “Hometown Heroes” by North Hempstead Town Clerk Leslie Gross and Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio at the Port Washington Public Library.
“I can’t think of a group more deserving of the title ‘Hometown Hero’ than you,” De Giorgio told the volunteers on Saturday.
The group included Rob Seiden, Gail Seiden, Vivian Moy, Elise May, Paul May, Kevin Ives, Dan Donatelli, Lisa Donatelli, and John Fields. But as Rob Seiden pointed out, there were plenty of others in the community, from government and school officials to local businesses to residents, all of whom supported the center, which closed Monday.
- See videos for more on the award ceremony.
For nearly two weeks, the group provided meals ready to eat, collected food and coffee donations from local eateries, organized rides to nearby Red Cross shelters, offered up blankets and friendly welcomes to those seeking refuge from the cold and dark. These volunteers shared information about clothing and coat collections. They listened, as locals commiserated about their inability to get to their jobs, and their need for a place to stay. They made it possible for residents to recharge their wireless devices in order to connect with the outside world. They planned a full roster of activities including fitness classes, arts and crafts, and a place to watch Sunday football and also election coverage. And when the Nor’easter rolled through, the volunteers kept going, even though they too were without power.
Addressing the volunteers on Saturday, Gross said she gives the award to “ordinary people who just step up to the plate when they see a need, when they know something has to be done, and they get together like this.”
Rob Seiden said he was “honored to work with this amazing group,” and also thanked Gross and De Giorgio for recognizing the volunteers. He noted, too, that De Giorgio, who Gross pointed out had “adopted” the center, was “so hands-on” at a “grassroots level.”
Through it all, the recovery center shifted locations several times – first at Schreiber High School, then Landmark on Main Street, then to the Port Washington Library, where for a time there was overlap with free activities at the Landmark. But friendliness, and empathy remained a constant.
"We're incredibly proud of the team and the work they have done as it shifted to its third location," Peter Forman, commissioner of the Port Washington-Manhasset Office of Emergency Management, told Patch.
Gross began recognizing Hometown Heroes when she became clerk in 2007. Candidates are nominated online through the town's website.
Check back with Patch for more on this story, including separate interviews with Peter Forman and Rob Seiden on their post-Sandy experience.