by Antonina Zielinska
More than three months after superstorm Sandy brought devastation upon New York, people in the Brooklyn Diocese are still struggling to recover. However, they have not been forgotten.
Earlier this month, a three-ton truck, packed with donations for Sandy victims, drove up to Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, Red Hook, from Florida.
“Thank you for being here and for making this beautiful community smile,” Father Claudio Antecini, pastor, told Terry Roberts, who donated his time and truck to drive up from Florida.
The pastor and his parishioners blessed the truckload of donations, which included food, clothes and even an oven for the church. It then took the parishioners and diocesan representatives several hours to unload the goods and put them in the church basement.
Father Antecini said he was grateful for the donations because it is difficult for his poverty stricken parish to recover from Sandy.
Red Hook was among the hardest hit areas in New York. Many buildings in the area, including the church, were left without electricity for a month, due to extensive flood damage in the low-lying area. The church basement, which served as the common area for the parish, is still without electricity. It is here that the community of Koinonia St. John the Baptist, the religious order that leads the parish, cooked, ate and did their laundry. It is into this damaged basement that the goods were stored.
Although the parish itself has been struggling, it continues to work with Catholic Charities and serve the people in the neighborhood.
“It’s a poor neighborhood, and they need what we give them,” said Diana Coriat, parochial director of Sandy relief. “We want to give not only materially but spiritually. We want them to know that the Lord is with them, that the church is open for them.”
“This is definitely going to the right people,” said Roberts, who made the trip with his dog, Lucy. “It is in the right place.”
The goods came from Saratoga, Fla., thanks to Bonnie Provo, who saw the devastation Sandy left on television. She saw a news report in which a lady said that she only had two outfits to her name. This, Provo said, was the moment when she decided she had to do something.
“The community obviously wanted to do something but they had no outlet,” she said. “I knew everyone was feeling the way I did, so I just gave them the outlet to do it. That’s all.”
She did not know how she would accomplish this or where it would lead her. She simply got to work. A lady offered to donate a couple of 10×10-inch crates for storage. Provo then contacted a few local businesses to see if they had things to donate and if they would put out donation boxes. When the local ABC News station heard about the initiative, it ran a story about the effort.
People started to donate and volunteer. Provo ended up coordinating about a dozen volunteers to collect and move all the donations.
“When we got the 10-by-10s, I thought maybe we’ll fill three of them,” she said. “To get three tons is mind-blowing!”
Provo kept running into delays because of problems in finding places that would accept the donations and because it was difficult to find someone trustworthy to drive the donations to New York.
People continued to help, so she continued to accept donations without knowing exactly what she would do with them.
ABC News eventually contacted the DeSales Media Group, the parent company of The Tablet and NET-TV, which in turn contacted Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish. The church had both the need and ability to accept the donations. Roberts agreed to drive up with less than a week’s notice. He even was able to collect donations of sweatshirts from a company that accidentally printed too many.
“The work was hard, but it was exiting and fun,” Provo said. “I’m just so thrilled that it all got there and it can help people.”
Visitation parish distributed the supplies during its regularly scheduled bi-monthly distribution days.