NYSUT officers Lee Cutler and Kathleen
Donahue review applications for assistance
through NYSUT's Disaster Relief Fund.
Tomia Smith, president of the Massapequa Federation of Teachers, representing teachers and secretaries, still sees the impact of Superstorm Sandy on the faces of members and students. "It's going on much longer than we thought," said Smith.
"Rentals are scarce, many stores still haven't reopened, insurance is slow and many people are not getting nearly as much as they thought to rebuild."
Her local raised more than $20,000 to help nearly 300 district employees. Contrary to popular belief, she said, the majority of the oceanfront communities' residents are working class.
For Michael Berrell, a Faculty Association of Suffolk Community College member, not much has improved since the storm. His rental home flooded then burned to the ground during Sandy. He and his girlfriend live temporarily in a house owned by a local church. Lacking renter's insurance, they faced near total loss.
Although donations have helped them get back on their feet, "we're still kind of in limbo, not really sure what we'll be doing," said Berrell. They hope to purchase a home eventually. One certainty: They won't return to live on the canal. "Irene was bad, Sandy was worse and who's to say what the next storm will bring," said Berrell.
Jodi Rebholz, a North Babylon Teachers Organization member, has been overwhelmed by the support of friends, colleagues and the community in the months since Superstorm Sandy.
"My friends from work were like storm troopers," said Rebholz of the help she and her husband, Stephen (pictured together at right), a Copiague Teachers Association member, received in the days following the storm. "They had clothes, cleaning supplies, they just didn't stop."
The couple's entire single-floor home was flooded and will require extensive repair, including replacing the heating and electrical systems.
The generosity inspired Rebholz to write "Twas the Night Before Hurricane Sandy," a poetic homage to her friends who helped gut her home, provided the use of a washing machine and refrigerator, and brought clothes and food. (You can read the poem below.) "I had to put my feelings down, to let people know how much their love and support means to us," she said.
Countless members are still struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy. To date, the NYSUT Disaster Relief Fund, which uses donations to aid victims of natural disasters, has provided grants to nearly 1,500 members. There are more than 900 pending grant requests; the fund receives new aid requests daily.
"The sheer scale of devastation from this storm is staggering," said NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue, who heads the fund with Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler.
NYSUT asked locals to host fund- raising events as part of its "Throw out the Lifeline" campaign to raise $250,000 in 25 days during February for disaster relief. NYSUT assumes 100 percent of the fund's administrative costs. "It's essential that we continue to support disaster relief through donations," Cutler said, "because the need is so great."
"Twas the Night Before Hurricane Sandy"
By Jodi Rebholz
'Twas two nights before Halloween, when all through the town,
Every person was nervous, as Frankenstorm came around.
Furniture was moved and flashlights were near,
Knowing that Hurricane Sandy was here.
Everyone was nestled all snug and wrapped tight,
While visions of storm damage gave them a fright.
And all were prepared as we watched in distress,
As Sandy came roaring and caused such a mess.
When out on the street the waters rose high,
So we sprang from our home afraid that we’d die.
Away to the window we flew like a flash,
Threw all that we could in the attic to stash.
The full moon on the breast of the high tide below,
Gave us a fear we would want no one to know.
When what to our astonishing eyes should we see?
But a full moon and high tide, as water surged past our knees.
The waters they rose, so lively and quick,
We knew in a moment, it wasn’t a trick.
More rapid than eagles, water surged fast,
As everyone groaned, "How long will this last?"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle mount in the sky.
So up to the house top everyone flew,
With all their belongings, and animals too.
And then, in a twinkling, it was over and done,
The water receded and we saw the sun.
As we drew in our heads, and were turning around,
There was a beautiful rainbow from sky to the ground.
It was shining so bright, the sky was so still,
We could get through this, we all had the will.
It was quiet and peaceful, it was a symbol of hope,
A ribbon of love to show that we’d cope.
No time to waste, no time to be sad.
We were alive and for that we are glad.
But then a Nor’Easter came, as we know,
And pounded us again with so much snow.
The handle of a shovel we held in our hand,
In the other a broom to sweep out the sand.
We continued to work without power or heat,
We’d stop once in awhile to have something to eat.
We spoke not a word, we wouldn’t let Sandy win,
Our family and friends all pitched in.
We could not do it without them, we certainly know,
Their kindness and compassion was a light that glowed.
They never stopped giving, they couldn’t do enough,
They arrived on our doorstep with an abundance of stuff.
They rolled up their sleeves, helped in so many ways,
They continue to help, day after day.
Yes, we will rebuild and we will be better,
We are not alone, we are in this together.
So let us exclaim, 'ere we don’t know where to start, so ...
Happy Holidays to all and to all a good night!