City officials said they had never heard of Long Beach resident Stacey Ebert, a social studies teacher at Farmingdale High School who was displaced by the storm, before she volunteered at the Ice Arena, the center of the city’s relief efforts, where donations poured in from across the country and where residents came for hot meals, clothing and information. Ebert, who had experience in event planning, quickly took on a major role in the operation.
“I felt like it was the right thing to do,” she said, adding that she learned about the center through LB Hurricane Info. “It was such an easy thing to be able to give back. I’ve lived here for eight years, and I think we met more people in those two weeks than we had in the total amount of time. You just feel so connected to the community. Everybody from every walk of life was there. You saw the look on people’s faces — you were literally helping them get through that day.”
Many residents also looked to the Martin Luther King Center for help. The facility was hit hard, but the gym was quickly transformed into a donation center, where volunteers gave out water, clothing and cleaning supplies. Organizers said that volunteers served three hot meals to approximately 300 people each day.
“I sleep here — I don’t think I’ve been out of this building more than two hours in however many days it is now,” said MLK Chairman James Hodge. “This is our neighborhood, and we’re doing what we can to provide.”
Hodge and other volunteers brought trays of food, cleaning supplies and blankets to tenants, many of them elderly, who were trapped in homes and high-rises with no power.
First responders answer the call
Many described the efforts of the city’s first responders — firefighters, police officers, sanitation workers and city officials — as nothing short of heroic.
If it weren’t for the bravery of the Long Beach Fire Department, officials said, the city could have suffered the fate of Breezy Point. A fire raged in the Canals and destroyed eight homes, and even when it is was not safe to do so, fire officials made a decision to respond.