After several days without power following Tropical Storm Isaias, a Middle Village family is fundraising for help with medical equipment and home bills.
The storm left Alicia Quirke, her husband Thomas and two sons Justin and Mateo without power for three days after it hit Queens on the first week of August. The borough saw the most downed trees and power outages in the city, with thousands left without power almost a week after it passed.
The Quirke family, who have lived in Middle Village for almost 12 years, was among those thousands. Alicia said their neighborhood was already prone to blackouts, as the electricity wires are above ground.
But Quirke’s 13-year-old son, Justin, has giant axonal neuropathy, a rare neurodegenerative disorder. Justin depends on medical equipment that require electricity and must be charged.
“The alternative is to go to the hospital, but right now we don’t feel comfortable doing that,” Alicia said. “If my son catches COVID … It would be devastating.”
Alicia said Con Edison has a program for families with members that have medical conditions and need electricity for their health. A Con Edison representative called them to let them know of the hazardous conditions and the possible outages, and gave them an estimated time of when the power would be back.
Alicia said she asked if they provide generators, but they were told they do not.
She couldn’t help but remember how hot the night of the storm was, but didn’t have any power to plug in a fan or an air conditioner.
“I’ll never forget it. We didn’t sleep; nobody did,” she said.
But the following day, with the power still out, one of her neighbors with a generator offered to charge Justin’s equipment.
“I did just that, but she needed it herself for her nebulizer, so she was putting herself at risk. She was very nice,” Alicia said.
She said other neighbors offered help with extensions for the generator and gas. But she soon began to worry about food spoiling.
Alicia said they were already penny pinching and couldn’t afford to waste any food, being that her husband is on furlough from his restaurant job. He receives unemployment benefits, but the additional $600 from the federal government expired at the end of July.
Another neighbor then took the initiative to create a GoFundMe page in order to fundraise for a generator, should another storm or blackout come. Then, a relative of her landlord contacted local Councilman Robert Holden to help the family get some immediate relief.
On Aug. 11, the Quirke family was called on by a neighbor to go outside. They were met by Holden and representatives from Home Depot who gifted them with a generator.
“We didn’t know any of this was going on, we were all in tears and in shock and disbelief,” Alicia said, tearing up as she recalled the moment. “Our community came together to help us with my son, to help us take care of him.”
“This selflessness and generosity is what our community is all about!” Holden wrote in a Facebook post.
Other neighbors, community activist Connie Altamirano and her children Jacob Altamirano and Jamie Longo, recently donated groceries to the family after contacting them to see how they could assist.
“I’m humbled and thankful to have been able to help the Quirke family with groceries,” Connie Altamirano said. “My children and I are committed to continuing our support of this wonderful family. I’m a firm believer that moms need to stick together and help each other, especially in this difficult time that we are living in.”
Jacob, a rising sixth-grader who raises funds and works with local food pantries to help those in need, donated his own money for the groceries.
“We have been helped many times before and this was an opportunity to give back to another family,” Jacob said.
Now, the funds generated by the GoFundMe will go toward medical bills and other necessities for the Quirke family as they get back on their feet.
“There’s so much thoughtfulness and happiness and gratitude,” Quirke said about her community. “I just can’t thank them enough.”