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Volunteer Fire Co. Gets a Helping Hand from Civic

Broad Channel Org. Recovering From Sandy

When Hurricane Sandy hit the area last October, the members of the 113-year-old Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department knew that their homes, lives and neighborhood were all in jeopardy-yet they went to duty anyway.

Members of the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department came to Middle Village last Thursday, Mar. 21, to accept a $2,100 donation from the Juniper Park Civic Association, which was collected through contributions from shoppers at Silver Barn Farms in Middle Village. As pictured, JPCA President Robert Holden (second from right) presented the check to Chief Dan McIntyre of the volunteer fire department. Also pictured at the presentation were (from left to right) City Council Member Eric Ulrich, who represents Broad Channel; and Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department Firefighter Katie McIntyre, Lt. Maciej Wojewoda and Chief Ed Wilmarth.

Indeed, their worst fears were realized as Sandy and her storm surge wreaked destruction across their community on an island in Jamaica Bay just north of the Rockaway Peninsula. The Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department’s members not only lost their homes, but also their base and firetruck-but they continued to help their neighbors since first responders from other parts of the city couldn’t reach the island right away.

But in the weeks and months that followed, the community and its volunteer first responders received plenty of helping hands from generous individuals across Queens and around the country. That outpouring of support continued last Thursday, Mar. 21, as members of the company came to the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) meeting in Middle Village to pick up a donation collected by the civic group from local residents.

Robert Holden, president of the JPCA, provided Chief Dan McIntyre of the Broad Channel volunteers with a check for $2,107 raised through a change drive launched by JPCA member Theresa Reilly. According to Holden, Reilly worked with Silver Barn Farms in Middle Village to organize the drive last fall, in which customers provided donations while checking out of the store.

Over $3,600 was collected through the effort, Holden noted, with $1,500 of the proceeds provided to a relief collection in Woodhaven. The group decided to donate the rest of the funds to the Broad Channel volunteer firefighters after learning that their base and firetruck were lost during the storm.

City Council Member Eric Ulrich- who represents the 32nd City Council District, two-thirds of which was flooded during Sandy-participated in the check presentation. He told members of the audience that the Broad Channel volunteers were “local heroes” who, despite the devastation wrought on their homes, nonetheless made sacrifices to help their neighbors in need.

No New York City Fire Department company is permanently stationed in Broad Channel, which looked “like an atomic bomb had hit” the area following Sandy, Ulrich said. It took more than a day after the storm hit the area before the first city units were able to reach the community.

Until that point, the lawmaker noted, the Broad Channel volunteers were on the scene, and he credited them for doing an exceptional job assisting their neighbors during the crisis.

“Thank God there was not one loss of life in Broad Channel” as a result of the superstorm, Ulrich said. He added that the volunteer firefighters were “the personification of hardworking New Yorkers coming to the aid of their neighbors.”

Though many considered the department to be heroes, McIntyre instead described the group as “neighbors helping neighbors.”

“All of us lost our homes. We went out and we did what we had to do,” he said.

In the five months since Sandy struck the area, McIntyre said that the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department has recovered. Their comeback was largely due to generous donations of people and groups from across the New York region and nationally. He noted that the department received a new firetruck donated by a company based in Minnesota.

McIntyre said the financial donation from Middle Village will go a long way toward sustaining the department’s operations. Before Sandy, he stated, the neighborhood itself was the primary supporter of the volunteers, but with so many families in the process of rebuilding, donations are harder to come by.

“We’re all recovering and getting back on our feet,” he added.

For more information on the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department or to donate, visit www.broadchannelvfd.org.

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