SOUTH SALEM, N.Y. – Members of Venture Crew 62, an offshoot of the Boy Scouts who volunteer for the South Salem Fire Department, met bright and early Sunday at the fire station, loaded up their cars and headed out to Breezy Point – one of the communities in New York hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy.
The crew, which included Gabe Frolick, Stephen Muoio, Ted Laquidara, Matt Jones, and advisers John Riina and Mike Harris, were looking to lend a hand to the people of that storm-ravaged neighborhood in Queens.
Through Hand 2 Hand Northern Westchester, a Hurricane Sandy relief organization based out of Cross River, the crew was linked up with Habitat for Humanity of Westchester. They met their guide for the day at a church, and the crew got its first assignment and headed off to the Point Breezy Fire Station, the closest firehouse to where a fire took out more than 100 homes after the storm.
“When you go to enter the town, and you’re stopped by a security checkpoint at the gate, reality hits you,” said Mike Harris, president of Venture Crew 62. “After entering through the NYPD security checkpoint, getting your daily assignment, getting your tools and supplies ready, and passing by the many National Guard Humvees, you find yourself traveling around what could be mistaken for a war zone.”
At one point, the crew was led through the area of more than 100 homes that were burned down. Harris said the members were unable to imagine what these families have gone through.
“They noticed the little things, like what survived the inferno, such as a rack of CDs that was untouched, in front of a house that was taken down to a charred foundation,” he said. “They noticed the little bikes that were mangled into balls of rusted metal, the kids toys that they knew were just as important to the children that lived there as the houses were to the families that lived in them.”
Down the road was an elderly man’s house that had a caved-in foundation with wet sand, almost 2 feet deep, covering the floor of the finished basement. Although the man had his older sons to help, he needed the extra hands to get the sand out so he could start rebuilding his foundation before more damage occurred. The crew spent the rest of the day there, clearing out the sand and other debris brought in by the ocean right outside the front door.
After a day of working and lending a hand wherever possible, the crew packed up and headed back home. Harris said there was a definite sense of hope, optimism and pride for that little community. Outside the Point Breezy Fire Department was a sign that read, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere ... rebuild Breezy.”
“It’s a testament to the community’s determination that no matter what time or day it is, or what the current state of the area is, there are better times ahead, and Breezy will come back,” Harris said. “And after a day of volunteering, the members of Crew 62 felt the same way, and are humbled to have been a minuscule part of that mantra.”