Catholic Charities’ Response to Sandy

Catholic Charities volunteers distribute frozen turkeys and sides after Hurricane Sandy and in time for Thanksgiving at the organization’s Queens Community Center in Astoria. Below, I Am Waters Foundation joined Catholic Charities at St. Mary Star of the Sea, Far Rockaway. The Texas foundation donated 37,000 bottles of water.

On the weekend before the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens staff worked long hours to prepare facilities and clients for the storm ahead. In advance of the storm, staff members provided meals for nearly 2,000 homebound elderly neighbors through the meals-on-wheels program, delivering food for a two-day period.

Workers at the agency’s 24-hour residences for the developmentally disabled and family home care services division worked double and triple shifts before and during the storm, ensuring the well-being of those they served. Staff at the SS. Joachim and Anne Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Coney Island, worked around the clock, during and after the hurricane, in order to provide 24-hour care to residents, despite the devastation.

As the storm pounded the city, Catholic Charities suffered damage to a number of its own buildings. The Catholic Charities Seaside Senior Center in the Rockaways suffered major destruction; the Strauss Residence for the Developmentally Disabled, Sheepshead Bay, was flooded (residents were relocated to another facility); and the Madeleine Jones Head Start, Coney Island, suffered major flooding. And although many of the agency’s buildings were damaged, the delivery of key services was not interrupted, thanks to mission-driven staff.

Immediate Response

Once Hurricane Sandy made landfall, outreach workers from Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens were already mobilizing for an emergency response. Experienced at working with city and national agencies in responding to natural disasters, Catholic Charities staff divided into four groups to assess the damage and set up parish locations to offer relief and recovery services to neighbors in need.

Recovery sites were established in collaboration with parishes and other community groups at St. Francis de Sales, Belle Harbor; Our Lady of Solace, Coney Island; St. Helen’s, Howard Beach; Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Red Hook; and St. Mary Star of the Sea, Far Rockaway. At these locations, residents were able to acquire immediate basic necessities – such as food, water and clothing.

Additionally, Catholic Charities staff and volunteers were able to begin to address residents’ social service needs and assist them with information on navigating government funding systems, such as FEMA, HRA, emergency food stamps, disaster unemployment, etc. Many parishes throughout the diocese collected non-perishable food items and supplies for the relief efforts, and also took up a second collection to assist those in distress. Catholic Charities staff members were supported by hundreds of volunteers who provided over 35,000 hours of service in the affected areas.

Moving forward, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens will continue to assist the recovery efforts in the Rockaway Peninsula, Coney Island, Red Hook and Howard Beach as well as expand to other impacted neighborhoods like Gerritsen Beach and Canarsie.

Moving Forward

Through the next week, Catholic Charities will be moving forward implementing a fund, in partnership with the pastors/administrators of all affected parishes to provide some support to individuals and families in need during the holy season of Christmas.

To help Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, contact 718-722-6099 or visit www.ccbq.org.

Sister Ellen Patricia Finn, O.P., Catholic Charities deputy executive director, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Senator Charles Schumer discuss plans for recovery in Breezy Point.
Citymeals-on-Wheels joined Catholic Charities at St. Mary Star of the Sea, Far Rockaway, to distribute food.