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Hometown Heroes: Port Washington-Manhasset OEM Recovery Center Volunteers

Officials recognize volunteers who tirelessly helped local 'Sandy' victims.

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.

Rob Seiden November 15, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Thank you to a great community for all your comments. I wanted to add that it was my honor and privilege to work with such a great army of volunteers and to serve our residents who were overwhelmingly appreciative. The smiles, nods and verbal thanks from residents who were often cold, lonely and uncertain, definitely made the long hours and stress worth every minute. Thanks also to the Boy Scouts and leader Paul Ferguson, as well as US Army First Lt. Jonathan Teplistsky. They, and the dozens of others helped us make a difference in the lives of the over 6,000 people we helped over a 2 week period. Council Woman DeGiorgio and Assemblywoman Schimmel were very hands on and invaluable, as was the leadership and direct help of Supervisor Kaiman, Sharon and the staff at Landmark on Main Street, Dr, Mooney, Karen, Jim, David and the amazing staff at Schreiber as well as Nancy, Rachel and the staff at the Library.
hank ratner November 15, 2012 at 08:09 PM
a big THUMBS UP!!!!
portsince1967 November 15, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Thank you Rob and Gail Seiden, Vivian Moy, Elise May, Kevin and all others who made our 10 days without power much easier, tastier, warmer, brighter and social. My son enjoyed making new friends and I enjoyed reconnecting with old friends, watching movies and celebrating the election results together.
Lynn Keating, Acupuncturist November 16, 2012 at 02:59 AM
You all did a wonderful job, thank you so much for your wonderful service to our community. I had the good fortune to meet so many of you and see first hand how amazingly hard you worked with smiles on your face. I hope you all had a good rest and found time to take good care of yourselves. Thank you.
John Russell November 22, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Thanks all and a job well done. Last year I found out we had a OEM and was amazed that a small town would have this. This year I found out it was run by volunteers, amazing!

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