When hurricane Sandy hit Staten Island many of us faced a life-changing experience. Each passing day came with our community trying to overcome tough obstacles. Tremendous outpouring of support from like-minded individuals strengthened our neighborhoods and provided assistance to those affected by this destructive storm. In the wake of hurricane Sandy, which resulted in significant damage to our town, we were overwhelmed by the compassionate people of our nation who wanted to help restore the livehood of so many. An abundance of contributions began to arrive to Staten Island; clothing, toiletries, baby items, food, blankets, cleaning supplies and just as importantly volunteers who are still helping people gut out their homes from top to bottom.
I want to thank a special family from Twin Falls, Idaho that reached out to us just days after hurricane Sandy hit Staten Island. As soon as she saw the natural disaster on the news, Regan Hayes felt compelled to help our borough. Regan and her incredible family owns a R&A trucking company, and they instantly decided that they will contribute one of their trucks full of relief supplies for hurricane Sandy victims. As soon as they announced their plans the donations came pouring in. For two sleepless weeks, Regan and her husband along with their children were packing and loading the truck box by box, hoping that the delivery will make it in time for Thanksgiving. A truck driver, named Patrick, traveled over 2,000 miles across the country, stopping only for a few hour sleep breaks, made it in time. R&A covered all of the expenses for the driver and fuel to get the donations to our residents. Almost each box we unloaded had a hand written note sending best wishes and prayers our way. Along with donations came a special manila envelope filled with letters and cards from 1st, 4th and 5th graders attending Lighthouse Christian School. Kids wrote sweet letters full of hope and blessings saying “please be patient, please be strong”.
Special thank you goes out to the most generous volunteers and wonderful women that I’ve been lucky enough to meet on this journey: Iraida Berg, Irena Ag, Lana Gordon, Milena Kostetsky Priven, Yelena Shakhanova and Esther Harari Kushnirsky.
Iraida Berg is an intellectual and resourceful woman who was able to reach out to local authorities and arrange logistics for goods donated on daily basis. She quickly became involved by lending a helping hand to all the affected families she met, always attentive and considerate.
Irena Ag, the creator of SI Russian American Group on Facebook, which serves as a great informational portal for the local community, has been reaching out to the affected families and distributing donations daily. Irena has been a shining example of leadership, connecting the victims to the generous donations based on their needs.
Lana Gordon with her husband organized many deliveries of cleaning supplies to numerous locations throughout the affected areas when many were in desperate need of those items.
Milena Kostetsky Priven’s time as a volunteer helped provide the affected families with food, clothing and school supplies for her local school. Milena always came full of energy with a smile on her face, while giving back to the ones in need.
Yelena Shakhanova offered us space in her own business, Kiddie Wonderland – a great space to celebrate any occasion. which was also affected by Sandy.,. Due to her generosity we were able to station ourselves and accept donations while helping others. Yelena is truly an incredible woman and we couldn’t have done it without her. Kiddie Wonderland made wishes come true for so many!
Esther Harari Kushnirsky offered babysitting services and worked on connecting the victims to the much-needed donations. Esther also helped many local day cares by providing them with education and learning supplies and toys for the little ones.
All the ladies have organized countless volunteer efforts, from sorting to delivering donations, at times with their children on hand, due to lack of babysitting. They still kept going strong for weeks on end. I’m honored and thankful to have these ladies as part of our community, inspiring us and going to extraordinary length to help.
Aiman Youssef and Oleg Ryabuyk are the survivors of the hurricane Sandy and our town’s heroes. During the storm, they were able to pull out 16 people from a deadly rushing river that once was Midland Ave and bring them to safety. Their homes which stand right next to each other quickly turned into a hub – a local donation distribution center, where they monitor donations 24/7. Aiman and Oleg work selflessly on the streets of their neighborhood providing victims with their needs, expecting nothing in return. These two are the most passionate and caring people you’ll meet. If you’d like to help, go to Midland Beach Relief.
I’d also like to thank Tom Horan and his wife Jackie, for the wonderful donations they’ve been sending all the way from Texas. They sent dozens of boxes filled with everything from baby diapers to toiletries, along with lots of love and care.
If you know Mike Loco Hoffman, then you truly know the power of volunteering and giving back. Mike is the director of Boots on the Ground Staten Island – Sandy Relief Org., who, since the storm, has been coordinating demolition efforts and debris clean up to rebuild areas of New Dorp and Midland Beach, gathering information daily on families that need assistance. Any day of the week you can find Mike and his crew working tirelessly on the homes of the families that lost everything to the hurricane Sandy. The team, which consists of local volunteers, many of whom ignored their own losses and needs, is doing an unbelievable job proving physical labor and home repairs to the suffering communities on Staten Island. Thank you on behalf of every family you’ve helped and will help in the future. I salute you!
Thank you to our local officials and organizations: Michael Grimm, Nick Curren (Grimm’s district director) Nicole Malliotakis, Sandy Rebuild Staten Island – Yellow Team, Guyon Rescue and Tunnel to Towers for what you do every day for our community.
And last but not least, thank you to my wonderful friends that volunteered every chance they got, Sophia Kostanyan, Bella Fridman, Anna Tkachuk and Dmitriy Mirochnik. I’m so lucky to have you all in my life.