By Joe Anuta
Residents in Flushing, Whitestone and College Point were eager to help their neighbors to the south whose homes were wiped out by Superstorm Sandy, but gas shortages and the logistics of transporting a large amount of goods made the prospect farfetched until several groups stepped forward with big plans — and big trailers to match.
Stephen Wilson spent part of the week driving clothing collected by his son’s Boy Scout troop down to the storm-ravaged neighborhoods of Queens, like Breezy Point, much of the Rockaways and Broad Channel.
The College Point resident has a large 12-by-6-foot enclosed trailer that proved handy, but after arriving with the goods, he realized people needed more than warm clothing.
“It was devastation everywhere. It was people wandering around wondering what to do,” he said. “They were looking for cleaning products, shovels, dry food, paper towels and blankets.”
Wilson knew that others in the northeast Queens area wanted to help but did not really know how, so he contacted the head of the Dwarf Giraffe Athletic League, a sports organization for Queens youngsters in which Wilson is involved, and used its massive network of families to get out the word that the league would be having a drive Sunday.
“It started out slow Sunday morning, and after I believe church was done, people just started pouring in,” Wilson said. “The amount of items donated was unbelievable.”
It soon became clear that even Wilson’s trailer would be woefully inadequate.
On a whim, he called his stepfather, an NYPD mechanic, and asked if the shop had any extra vehicles to help.
Soon, a 20-foot box truck arrived at the Dwarf Giraffe gym, at 149-50 15th Road.
It was filled as well.
Wilson and others drove the items down to the Aqueduct Racino, where the Red Cross was sorting and staging items for delivery, and also to the Breezy Point Volunteer Fire Department, which was grateful for the items, which included $1,000 worth of medical supplies donated by an area Wallgreens.
The Welcome to Whitestone Commercial and Residential Civic Association also sprang into action, collecting items from the neighborhood and packing them into a large box truck that was driven down to the Rockaways Monday.
“This is truly a great example of neighbors helping neighbors,” said Devon O’Connor, president of the civic.
Down in Flushing, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, an international outfit originally from Taiwan, was cooking up a storm and delivering the results to residents in Broad Channel and Breezy Point, according to George Chang, executive director of the foundation’s Northeast region center on Northern Boulevard.
“We try to spread what we call the seed of love,” said Chang.
The organization has provided more than 3,000 meals to New Yorkers affected by the storm, with members of the organization, recognizable by their white pants and blue jackets, popping up in battered locations from Staten Island to the Rockaways.
Tzu Chi has also been dishing out huge blocks of instant rice that can be cooked by simply combining it with boiled water, instead of cooking it over a stove.
Over the weekend, Chang expected more than 3,000 pounds of instant rice to be delivered from Taiwan.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.