Amid the massive devastation of super storm Sandy that has touched virtually everyone in Long Beach, L.I., the light of caring and giving shined brightly this week.
Many teachers from public and parochial schools throughout Long Island who were off on Veterans Day came to the Long Beach Ice Rink to help in the sorting of massive donations of food, clothing, personal items, and household supplies. Like the teachers, students who also had the day off and were out of school for much of the storm assisted in the effort.
Six families from Great Neck showed up to sort clothing by gender and size.
"We came with our moms and brothers and sisters," said Orli Cole, 14. "We were looking to volunteer for something, and we learned of this online."
Jacky Kislin, also 14, said they had all volunteered the previous week in Brooklyn. "In the last two weeks, we have had one day of school," she said.
Outside the ice skating rink on Magnolia Boulevard, a line of people waited patiently for donated food, clothing and household supplies. Two weeks after the storm, many of the residents still did not have electricity in their homes.
In front of the ice rink, representatives from FEGS offered bagels, cream cheese, juice, and coffee to those in need.
Zach Solomon, 24, whose home had to be gutted due to the flooding, spearheaded his own effort to help storm victims. He handed out new blankets, toothpaste, toothbrushes, socks and flashlight batteries that he purchased from the money he raised. He said he thought of the idea after remembering that a friend had started a nonprofit to help Katrina victims.
"Within the first 48 hours after I sent out 150 e-mails, we had raised nearly $10,000," Solomon said. "We used it to buy 500 blankets, and we have a lot more money left to buy other things."
At the ice rink, Bob Piazza, Long Beach's park's commissioner, said the city has "stopped accepting donations so we can catch up with sorting what we have."
He pointed to unsorted bags of clothing that filled half the rink's bleachers.
"It's estimated to be in excess of 40 tons," he said. "We've taken in food and household goods and cleaning supplies, and as there is a demand for it we run it out [to those on line]."
Piazza said they are planning to send what is not needed to other communities that can use it.
At the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County dinner on Tuesday night, Gov. Andrew Cuomo thanked the 550 attendees for coming to the event, despite their own difficulties with the storm. Speaking about the destruction experienced by Long Beach and other communities throughout Long Island and New York City, he noted that Sandy was one of three storms he has confronted since he became governor 22 months ago. He fears Sandy is not the storm of the century, but a new reality for which we must prepare.
While promising that New York will rebuild "better and smarter," to prepare for future storms, Cuomo noted that he was touched by the spirit of caring communities that he observed throughout the state. He noted that a lesson learned from the Holocaust -- and that the Holocaust Center teaches -- is that we cannot stand idly by as others suffer. He added that we are all responsible for one another, and that the ethos of kindness and cooperation is alive and well in New York State.
In the wake of Sandy, the time has never been more appropriate for the 92Y's new initiative to inaugurate a national day of spending that emphasizes giving back. Giving Tuesday, which will be launched November 27, is garnering the support of retailers, charities, organizations and individuals to inspire a day of giving and celebration of our country's time-honored traditions of philanthropy and volunteerism.
You can help by spreading the word about the importance of giving back and joining in the conversation at givingtuesday.org, or on Twitter by following the hashtag #givingtuesday.
This originally appeared here.