On Friday night, I also delivered some non perishable food that I picked up from food donations collected at PS 39. One of our members is the principal there and I was glad to pick up the food and deliver it to several sites on Midland Avenue. Pictured here are Oleg and Albert. Oleg told me many stories about his family and neighborhood. He and Albert talked about how they could lift people and weights that they normally would not be able to do as Sandy raged. Later, after the storm abated, their backs ache constantly. Oleg told how his daughter’s hands were so cold that she could barely feel them. He lost his car (most everyone on his street lost their cars) and his job, and his home was destroyed.
The site is part of the G.R.E. Foundation Inc. He has been there from early morning till late at night, working, handing out supplies and meals. He told me that when he closes his eyes to sleep, he sees the water rising. He could save some people but he has visions of all the people floating in the water that he could not save. The next day, he says, the streets were full of dead bodies. Oleg knows in his head that he could not do more but his heart also aches with all those who died and all those still suffering.
I visited Steven at the South Shore Kiwanis site further down on Midland Avenue. Steven, Oleg, and Albert are concerned about keeping their sites open. They worry that their sites might be closed by the Mayor’s office. Though it is understandable that the New York City government offices need to be concerned about the safety, cleanliness, ethics and health practices of the various sites, people at every site I visited say that there are hundreds of people who rely on them for hot meals, warming stations, and much needed supplies. If they are shut down, there will be an astronomical cost to those just hanging on by a thread, often the thread offered to them by volunteers at these sites on the South Shore who often go door to door as well, finding out people’s needs and condition, their health, passing out information and getting them what they need when they need it. Perhaps there will come a time when these sites are not needed–when there will be ample housing and hot food and supplies to counter the mold and the chaos Sandy left of their lives but that time is not now. That much I know and have seen.