Volunteers needed in the Rockaways

Volunteers needed in the Rockaways
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rich Bockmann

Except for a few generator-powered lights, the Rockaway Peninsula is plunged into darkness at night, but during the daytime’s sunlight hours there is plenty of work to be done.

“The No. 1 need is for volunteers,” Alison Thompson, an organizer with Third Wave Volunteers said last Thursday at Belle Harbor’s St. Francis De Sales Church where a massive relief effort is underway. “If you’re not that strong, there’s plenty of work to be done organizing in here. If you’re able-bodied, we can use you outside cleaning up and going door-to-door.”

Throughout the day trucks packed with everything from bottled water to clothing to toilet paper arrive outside the church where they are unloaded into the building’s auditorium. Thompson said that while donations have been pouring in from all over, there is a shortage of boots on the ground to get those supplies and, more importantly, information out.

“Yesterday no one even knew a storm was going to hit,” she said as piles of sand left behind by Superstorm Sandy’s surge outside sat topped with snow from last week’s nor’easter.

Many elderly residents who stayed behind in their homes after the peninsula was ordered evacuated as Sandy approached cannot travel far to get the food, medical supplies and assistance they need, Thompson said.

Third Wave Volunteers, which organizes the effort at St. Francis, was founded after Thompson went to Indonesia in 2004 to assist in the recovery effort following a 9.3-magnitude earthquake that struck the island nation.

She helped out in Haiti in 2010 after a devastating earthquake leveled parts of the Caribbean island and in Japan following last year’s tsunami.

“What’s weird is those places were disgustingly hot,” she said. “Here it’s the opposite. We’re starting to get into this cold weather.”

Thompson said she has been getting the word out on the group’s Facebook page and hopes those who want to help will heed her call.

“The trick is that there’s no subway. But for like $12 each you can fill up a bus to come out,” she said.

On Sunday Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the suspension of the $3.25 cash toll on the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial and Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial bridges to the Rockaways.

MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said the $1.80 E-ZPass toll would be retroactively credited to customers’ accounts.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.