The volunteers and first responders
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Other volunteers went door to door, checking on neighbors or serving meals or handing out necessities at one of the many distribution stations that dotted the city after the storm. As the weeks stretched on, holiday toy drives and fundraisers were launched.
“The Knights of Columbus … opened their doors to all who needed it,” McNally said. “They became a central hub for the Red Cross and a source of hot food and camaraderie to a West End desperately in need.”
Days after the storm, Sean Sullivan, owner of Swingbelly’s, the West End barbecue joint, which was destroyed by floodwater, teamed up with Shine’s bar and set up a grill in front of Sullivan’s boarded-up restaurant on West Beech Street, where he cooked ribs, flipped burgers and served beer.
“[Shine’s] was set to celebrate its centennial anniversary the Saturday after the storm hit,” McNally said. “By Thursday, the bar’s two young owners cast aside their own concerns about the business’s survival and were operating a full-fledged soup and supply kitchen for anyone that needed it. Shine’s was quite literally the only beacon of light, hope and normalcy for West End residents in the days immediately following the storm. They didn’t stop until Thanksgiving.”
Swingbelly’s, along with Skudin Surf, Surf for All and the Long Beach Surfer’s Association, served more than 200 turkey dinners at the Ice Arena on Thanksgiving. “Sean Sullivan saved Thanksgiving, man,” said LBSA President Billy Kupferman. Members delivered hot meals to residents in high-rises that were without heat and power, helped gut homes and launched an initiative to support local businesses during the holidays. “[E]veryone learned how to gut a home just by volunteering,” Kupferman added. “Everyone just united. In the worst thing that could have happened to us, the response was beautiful from every angle …”