Their efforts, he explained, have also become more far-reaching than expected. While RepairRestoreRenew has helped families across Long Island, including Malverne, East Rockaway, Oceanside, Island Park and Long Beach, among others, it has also supported families in areas of Brooklyn and Queens, including Gerritsen Beach, Belle Harbor, Breezy Point, Far Rockaway and Howard Beach.
“Malverne is a tight community — there’s an honor system,” Grech said. “Some money came from strangers, many came from people we know. But people trusted us to do the right thing. We got donations from people who used to live on Long Island, people from Florida, North Carolina, Japan.
“Some lost everything they had,” he continued. “People needed money for food and gas. We said, ‘Here’s a few hundred dollars until FEMA shows up.’”
Lang, who described Hurricane Sandy as “devastating,” said that the group, in addition to receiving monetary donations, also began to accept supplies, food and clothing. Its members decided to hand-deliver donations and items when possible, she said, and they have been overwhelmed by how grateful recipients have been. Donations have benefited a wide range of people, including New York City policemen and firefighters as well as school teachers.
“We hit a lot of towns that were in bad shape — families are dealing with flooded homes, mold, no power,” Lang said. “People are dumbfounded that others want to help. People say, ‘We’re fine.’ But they’re not fine. They’re getting supplies from relief centers, but still have water in the house. We just felt like, if you give people money, they know what they need.”
Grech also agreed that directly providing families with money remains the best method of assistance. “I drove down to Broad Channel, Queens, a few days after [the storm] to a friend of a friend — a single mom whose house had five feet of water in it,” he recounted. “FEMA hadn’t come through yet, and she needed money for food, and supplies to clean the house. She started crying when we came with cash. We want to help anyone in need.”